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St Mungo's staff vote for strike action

04 Feb 2020 News

Hundreds of staff at the homelessness charity St Mungo’s are set to strike over sickness policy and disciplinary procedures, according to the Unite trade union.

A ballot of over 500 Unite members was the second in less than six months, after the first ballot missed the 50 per cent turnout threshold by a single vote. This time the ballot to strike was won by 83.7 per cent. 

But the charity says the strike is disproportionate and unnecessary. It has around 1,300 staff and delivers a range of accommodation, employment and health services, and said there are contingency plans to continue to support vulnerable people.

The issues in the dispute centre on breaches of the “junior staffing cap”, which is an agreement negotiated between the union and the charity. Unite says its members fear this risks “a reinstatement of race to the bottom terms and conditions”.

The union is also warning of “an onerous sickness policy and disproportionate use of grievance and disciplinary procedures”.

It is calling on local authority commissioners of St Mungo’s homelessness services to put pressure on the chief executive, Howard Sinclair, “to return to the negotiating table for last ditch talks”.

Unite warns that a strike by the union’s members could “cause disruption to service delivery in councils across London and the south of England”.

A meeting of Unite workplace representatives will take place over the next few days to decide the next steps.

'This was a resounding vote against a heavy-handed and bullying management style'

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed 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. This was a resounding vote against a heavy-handed and bullying management style.

“If the strikes go ahead, the services councils rely on to support vulnerable, homeless people in their areas will be disrupted, but this is the responsibility of senior management.

“Unite has been seeking to resolve these matters with the employer for over a year. We are urging all commissioning local authorities using St Mungo’s services to exert pressure on the management to get back around the negotiating table. Our members’ demands – that management respect staffing agreements, staff terms and conditions, and end their draconian use of discipline and hostility towards their chosen trade union – are reasonable.”

'We are not cutting pay, altering staff terms and conditions nor making enforced redundancies'

Howard Sinclair, chief executive at St Mungo’s said: “We are disappointed with the ballot result. 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 nor 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 Unite representatives to help us resolve this dispute at ACAS.

“Our contingency planning will now have to ramp up, but I want to reassure people that our priority remains to protect our vulnerable clients during these winter months.

“Our efforts remain focused on listening and addressing staff concerns. 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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