Workers at debt advice charity vote to strike

11 Mar 2024 News

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

Jonathan Stutz, Adobe

Frontline workers at debt advice charity Rooted Finance have voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over pay, conditions, and trade union recognition.

Union members, represented by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), will be going on strike on 18 and 19 March. 

Six employees, which is all of the charity’s front of house staff, will be going on strike, according to the union. 

IWGB said workers have described “anti-union and intimidatory tactics” from charity management.

Rooted Finance chief executive Muna Yassin told Civil Society the union was providing “inaccurate and potentially damaging advice” to members of the charity which risks damaging its relationships and services.

Union: ‘Cruel third sector employers’

The dispute at Rooted Finance began in December last year, when workers sent an open letter to management raising “concerns over low pay and inadequate training, and requesting voluntary trade union recognition”. 

IWGB claims the majority of workers who signed a letter requesting union recognition have since then been summoned to disciplinaries and threatened with dismissal. 

Seven former employees signed a public letter echoing the accusations made against the charity and sharing their own experiences at the organisation. 

The allegations they made included unsafe working conditions, unsustainable workloads, a failure to take health issues seriously, and “intimidating and bullying behaviours” from management. 

Ajmal Waqif, chair of the charity workers’ branch of IWGB said: “It is shocking to see more bad bosses in the charity sector letting the mask slip with their blatant anti-union intimidation. 

“Rooted Finance management have joined the list of reckless and cruel third sector employers who are willing to drag the reputations of their supposedly progressive institutions through the mud.

“The actions of these dangerous directors are preventing well-meaning workers from helping those in need.” 

CEO ‘disappointed at the tactics employed by the IWGB’

Yassin said her charity, which recorded an income of £500,000 in the year to March 2023 including £404,000 from three government grants, would “not be bullied” by the union.

“A few members of staff recently approached Rooted Finance management with a number of demands, including pay rises, following consultation with the IWGB,” she said.

“Our team is incredibly important to us, and we always strive to ensure that staff are treated fairly, and compensation is equitable and benchmarks favourably to other agencies and similar projects in the sector.

“We are disappointed at the tactics employed by the IWGB and it is disturbing to hear about the alleged poor behaviour, which has not been raised previously. We respect all members of our team and take their treatment and wellbeing very seriously.  

“It is unfortunate that the IWGB continues to provide inaccurate and potentially damaging advice to members of the Rooted Finance team which risks damaging relationships and the services being provided. 

“While it offers market level pay and benefits, Rooted Finance is not able to offer all of the same benefits as larger charities or the private sector. The actions of a few in partnership with the IWGB are putting these services at risk.

“We are continuing to engage with employees and remain available to discuss their individual needs further.” 

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