St Mungo's staff vote to strike

According to the union Unite, 84 per cent of those who took part voted for industrial action in a dispute over terms and conditions

St Mungo's: charity disappointed by the result
St Mungo's: charity disappointed by the result

Staff at the homelessness charity St Mungo’s have voted to go on strike in a row over terms and conditions. 

The union Unite said that almost 84 per cent of members at the charity who voted gave their backing to industrial action. It said it had more than 500 members at the charity. 

St Mungo’s said in a statement that it was disappointed by the outcome and 241 people at the charity had voted in favour of industrial action.

“This represents 14 per cent of our total staff, yet the decision to strike will be felt across the entire charity,” the statement said. 

Unite said the charity was refusing to cancel plans to remove a junior staffing cap agreement and it feared services would be harmed because higher-paid, experienced staff would be pushed out and replaced by lower-paid junior staff.

The union said it had issues with the charity’s "draconian" sickness and disciplinary policies.

The charity denied it was seeking to alter employee terms and conditions or that staff would be made redundant.

Trustees believed the charity had done what it could to avoid strike action, the charity’s statement said, and its priority was to minimise the effect of strike action on its most vulnerable clients. 

An earlier ballot for strike action, which concluded in September, was unsuccessful because one too few union members took part in the vote. 

The Trade Union Act 2016 prevents a trade union from calling a strike if more than 50 per cent of employees eligible to vote do not participate.

The union has not yet fixed a timetable for strike action and urged the charity to return to the negotiating table in order to avoid a walkout by Unite members. 

The charity said it paid client-facing staff some of the best salaries in the sector and had already made changes to its policies after receiving feedback from staff during the dispute. 

Tabusam Ahmed, regional officer at Unite, said: “The last thing our members want is to cause hardship to vulnerable homeless people. But after more than a year of having their demands to be treated more fairly ignored, they’ve had enough.

“Our members’ demands – that management respect staffing agreements and staff terms and conditions, and an end to the draconian use of discipline and hostility towards their chosen trade union – are reasonable.

“The time has come for management to negotiate and to rebuild trust.”

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “We made a series of offers that Unite officials refused to engage with. 

“Our offers remain on the table. We are not cutting pay, altering staff terms and conditions or making enforced redundancies. 

“We continue to believe a strike is disproportionate and unnecessary, based on the ballot points made, and are asking our Unite members to encourage their union representatives to help us resolve this dispute at Acas.”

Sinclair said the charity would need to ramp up its contingency planning and its priority would be to protect vulnerable clients during the winter months.

“Our efforts remain focused on listening and addressing staff concerns,” he said. 

“We urge Unite officials to discuss these so we can build a better relationship with Unite for the future. 

“St Mungo’s will continue to do everything necessary to protect the safety and interests of our most vulnerable clients.”

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