Unite members at the homelessness charity St Mungos Broadway will strike for an initial seven days from Friday 17th October. A new executive, installed following a recent merger, has imposed changes to staff terms with what they call “retrospective consultation”. They have announced their intention to stop negotiating with Unite on pay while the new boss talks of the possibility of working with notorious private contractors such as Serco.
A packed members meeting voted unanimously for the seven day strike following a ballot in which a massive 95.8% voted to strike on a 68% turnout. There are just under 600 members of the Unite housing branch at St Mungos. Members spoke of years of frustration with repeated restructurings and their determination not to be treated with contempt.
Staff fear that the new are about to “rip the heart out of the organisation”, transforming a high quality organisation with a reputation second to none into yet another low quality, minimum standards, ‘race to the bottom’ business.
The HR director has written of the potential advantages for housing organisations of people being ‘hoiked’ out of work as a result of the crisis. She explains that it could be good for organisations such as St Mungos Broadway because of increasing numbers falling behind on their rent or mortgage, sinking in to depression, taking up substance abuse and requiring homelessness services! She is very clear about what lies in store for the victims of the crisis:
“…the government’s notion that all the people about to be flung out of public and voluntary services will miraculously become employed in and promote the growth of a newly booming commercial sector is laughable. Get real. A significant proportion are UNEMPLOYABLE (capitals in original) because they’ve been allowed to get away with murder for years, unchallenged in the absence of firm and consistent management within their employer organisations and protected to the hilt by an employment law regime which has pretty much scotched the concept and practice of personal responsibility for anything in the workplace” (Inside Housing 20/10/2010).
UK employment law gives workers less protection than most European countries and staff feel it is inappropriate that someone who expresses such views is leading an organisation working with the homeless.
Branch secretary Suzanne Muna commented,
Unite is campaigning to defend standards of pay and service standards in the sector. We appeal to responsible employers to talk to us about a national agreement such as already exists in Scotland to prevent a competitive race to the bottom.
Please donate to the campaign as follows:
- By BACS: Account Name: Unite Housing Workers Branch LE1111, Account No: 20040639, Sort Code: 08-60-01.
- By cheque made out to the Unite Housing Workers Branch LE1111, Unite LE1111, and sent to PO Box 66701, London E11 9FB.
Please mark all donations ‘St Mungos Broadway Campaign Funds’.
The strike will begin at 8.00 am on Friday 17th October and we will post details of the picket lines on our website. We will also post updates on the action as it progresses. Please send solidarity messages to [email protected].
The Unite LE1111 website will carry updates on the dispute: http://www.housingworkers.org.uk/page/5/news.html