St Mungo's staff to strike after Acas talks break down

The trade union Unite says there will be a walkout from 16 to 18 March as the latest move in a dispute over a junior staffing cap agreement

St Mungo's
St Mungo's

- This article was clarified on 3 March 2020; see final paragraph

Staff at the homelessness charity St Mungo’s will strike for three days this month after talks to settle a long-running dispute about terms and conditions broke down.

The union Unite said today that it planned to stage a walkout between 16 and 18 March after talks at the conciliation service Acas ended without a positive resolution.

Last month, 84 per cent of the union members at St Mungo’s who took part in a strike ballot gave their backing to a walkout.

The charity said 53 per cent of the more than 500 union members at St Mungo's took part in the vote, meaning 241 voted in favour of strike action. 

The union says the charity is refusing to cancel plans to remove a junior staffing cap agreement and fears services will be harmed because higher-paid, experienced staff would be pushed out and replaced by lower-paid junior staff.

It also cites issues with what it calls the charity’s "draconian" sickness and disciplinary policies.

The charity says it is not cutting pay, changing terms and conditions or making people redundant and strike action is unnecessary.

Tabusam Ahmed, regional officer at Unite, said today that members felt they had no option but to go on strike.

“Unite is bitterly disappointed that senior management at St Mungo’s has rejected a sound and sensible solution, proposed at Acas, to settle our long-running dispute over changes senior management made to the junior staffing cap agreement,” he said.

“Our members now feel they have no option but to walk out. Their clients’ safety is their priority, which is why they feel so strongly about standing up and defending the services they deliver.

“This strike isn’t about money. It’s about protecting jobs and defending the safety and high-quality services our members deliver.

“Without the junior staffing cap there is nothing to stop the chief executive from bringing in a cheaper workforce on lower pay and worse terms and conditions.”

The union said Howard Sinclair, the outgoing chief executive of St Mungo’s, who is due to step down in the autumn, had lost the trust of Unite members and should leave immediately.

Sinclair said: “After spending three days at Acas, I am disappointed that talks with Unite officials have broken down and St Mungo’s has now received notice that Unite members intend to strike for three days.

“St Mungo’s went to Acas wanting to resolve this dispute with Unite, but our attempts were shut down.

“Unite refused to discuss seven of the eight issues balloted on and, of the one issue discussed, didn’t offer evidence to support its misunderstanding of numbers around the junior staffing cap, instead proposing unfair changes that could lead to staff redundancies.”

He said St Mungo’s was committed to finding an agreement with Unite, “but we cannot go against our core values and put staff at risk of redundancy”.

The charity would have to implement contingency plans to ensure the interests of its most vulnerable clients and the charity as a whole were protected, said Sinclair.

- The article was amended to make it clear that 53 per cent of union members took part in the strike ballot. 

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