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Oxfam workers set to strike for 17 days over pay

23 Nov 2023 News

Demonstration: Silhouette of protesters with banners against a grey brick wall.

Jonathan Stutz, Adobe

Oxfam staff are set to strike for 17 days this December in the first industrial action in the charity’s 81-year history, according to Unite. 

Almost 500 staff members will go on strike on various dates in December. Industrial action will impact the charity’s offices, headquarters, and over 200 of its charity shops, the union said.  

The workers voted by 83% in favour of strike action in Unite's ballot, which had a turnout of 82%. 

It comes after Oxfam union members rejected a pay offer of a minimum salary increase of 6%, or £1,750, depending on which was higher, for all UK-based colleagues who worked at the charity before December 2022. 

An additional one-off payment of £1,000 was also offered to the lowest-paid staff. 

On the first day of strike action, 8 December, workers will picket outside of Oxfam’s headquarters. 

Oxfam has more than 1,800 UK-based staff. 

Unite: ‘Workers have their union’s total support’

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Oxfam wants to end poverty and says it is on the side of unions. Yet its own workers report having to use foodbanks.”

She said: “Oxfam is an extremely wealthy organisation and can afford to put forward an acceptable offer without impacting its charity work in the slightest. Its workers have their union’s total and unflinching support as they strike to make sure that happens.”

Oxfam's accounts for the financial year ending March 2022 show a total income of £373m against an expenditure of £329m. 

Staff costs amounted to almost a third of the charity’s expenditure at £102.5m. This is down by 11% from the previous year.  

Unite has criticised the charity’s reserves, which stood at £44.6m for the latest financial year. 

Oxfam: ‘Simply not affordable’

An Oxfam GB spokesperson said: “We are obviously disappointed that Unite members have voted to strike.

“We are acutely aware of the pressures colleagues face as a result of the rising cost of living and we have done what we can to address this. We chose to bring forward paying the latest real Living Wage increases, and prioritised lower-paid colleagues in this year’s award.  
“We deeply regret that we could not do more but the settlement Unite is asking for is simply not affordable for Oxfam at a time when many of the communities we work with around the world are also facing sharply rising costs. 
“We will now do everything possible to minimise the impact on our work and to support colleagues over the coming weeks.” 

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