Maintenance staff at the homelessness charity St Mungo’s have entered the eighth week of indefinite strike action in what has become a protracted dispute.
Employees in the charity’s property services department have been picketing St Mungo’s London head office since 22 April after voting to take part in the industrial action earlier that month.
The walkout follows a claim in March by the union Unite of an anti-union bias by senior management at St Mungo’s.
Unite, which has more than 500 members at the charity, claimed that almost half of its workplace reps there were being targeted by management and were engaged in formal processes concerning their own employment.
The charity refutes all the claims and says it has a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment.
There are 16 staff in the charity’s property services department, 12 of whom are Unite members.
The department is responsible for the day-to-day repairs to the charity’s 3,200 housing units.
Strike action was tabled after a number of staff grievances against property services senior management were dismissed, the union said.
Unite said these claims had not been properly investigated and that a workplace representative was being unfairly subjected to disciplinary proceedings as a direct result of raising the initial grievance.
Steve O’Donnell, regional officer at Unite, said: “The behaviour that led up to the grievance against senior management, followed by the outright dismissal of that grievance by St Mungo’s leadership, resulted in the current all-out strike action within the property services department.
“St Mungo’s suspended our member who raised the grievance for gross misconduct as it viewed his grievance as vexatious, despite two other members independent of him raising similar allegations.
“The charity has ignored requests to lift the suspension and commission an independent review into the allegations.”
The union said that having an entire department on strike was not good for the charity’s operations or its reputation and it had made a bad situation worse by not acting on the genuine concerns of staff.
A St Mungo’s spokesperson said: “St Mungo’s wholeheartedly refutes these claims and worked hard to try to avoid this industrial action, which was voted for by eight people in our property services department.
“We have implemented contingency plans to ensure that the work of that department is managed, and the disruption to our services minimal.”
St Mungo’s said it was disappointed the dispute has not yet been resolved and is committed to finding a solution.
The charity said that an anonymous, independent survey of its more than 1,500 staff in February found that 94 per cent of respondents said they had not experienced bullying or harassment by a manager.
Some St Mungo’s staff also staged a walk-out in March last year, as part of a long-running dispute related to pay and working conditions.