St Mungo's talks not progressing enough to avoid strike action, says union

Unite claims members are concerned about job security and pay and conditions, but charity denies it is seeking to make changes

The homelessness charity St Mungo’s is to hold another round of talks with the trade union Unite after "not nearly enough progress" was made to prevent strike action.

The charity and the union have been locked in discussions since 12 July with the conciliation service Acas to avert a vote on industrial action over alleged issues with staff terms and conditions.

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

In a statement, the union said it also had issues with the charity’s "draconian" sickness and disciplinary policies.

The charity denied it was seeking to alter staff terms and conditions.

Tabusam Ahmed, regional officer at Unite, said the charity needed to "start listening" and understand staff concerns.

"While we acknowledge that St Mungo’s has finally agreed to Acas talks, we are concerned that it does not share the same level of commitment," Ahmed said.

"So far, not nearly enough progress has been made."

Anonymous messages that Unite said were sent by staff to Robert Napier, the chair of St Mungo’s, raised concerns about the loss of good staff and the erosion of terms and conditions.

"The messages we’ve received from members to Robert Napier make it clear that staff are worried about what the changes mean for their professionalism and the service they provide to some of the country’s most vulnerable people," Ahmed said.

"When you have an employee say that ‘the general feeling of working at St Mungo’s is fear’ and another that they don’t feel ‘listened to or valued’, there is a problem."

But he added that the union was "genuinely committed" to finding a mutually agreed solution to avert strike action.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive at St Mungo’s, said: "St Mungo’s has been determined to resolve differences and avoid Unite’s strike.

"By going to ACAS we are explaining our position and showing that we are not proposing to alter terms and conditions as Unite claims, nor break existing agreements.

"Our number-one priority remains looking after the safety and interests of our clients and services."

UPDATE: At 16:15, St Mungo's informed Third Sector that discussions with Unite had broken down. 

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s said:

"St Mungo’s is disappointed that the talks with Unite officials at ACAS have broken down. St Mungo’s started the process willing to listen and engage, and we have made a number of changes to our policies during the process in order to try and reach agreement.

"It is very disappointing that Unite officials would not compromise.

"Unite’s threat of a strike is a disproportionate response, totally unnecessary and potentially very disruptive. We have made clear to Unite officials that St Mungo’s is not proposing any changes to terms and conditions of staff.

"If Unite’s strike goes ahead, St Mungo’s will do everything necessary to protect the safety and interests of our most vulnerable clients."

More to follow 

Liam Kay

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