Staff at homeless charity ballot to strike

Union calls-out pay disparity as St Mungo's workers ballot for strike action

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Staff at the homeless charity St Mungo’s are being balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay.

Unite the Union said charity workers are ‘fed-up’ and ‘underpaid’, as their wages fail to keep up with inflation, whilst senior figures enjoy large salaries.

Over 500 workers in London, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth and Reading are being balloted over taking strike action.

The dispute centres on pay for 2021, where St Mungo’s imposed a 1.75% pay deal and then a 5% pay deal for 2022, according to Unite, reflecting a year-on-year fall in the real-value of workers’ pay against rising inflation rates.

Unite have highlighted the pay disparity between workers on the frontline struggling against real-terms pay cuts, and senior management on six-figure salaries.

St Mungo’s Chief Executives have seen their pay at the charity spiral by 77% from £107,000 to £189,000 since 2013, according to Unite, whilst the real value of St Mungo’s workers’ wages dropped by 25% over a similar time frame.

The union added that a front-line worker earns around £26,000, whilst in the last ten years, pay of senior management in St Mungo’s has increased by 350%.

Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham, said workers have no other choice but to ‘rebel’.

Graham said: “St Mungo’s frontline workers are on the streets every night helping the homeless but many can’t afford to pay their own rent.

“Now the workers are rebelling – they have no other choice.  While charity bosses live the good life, frontline staff are facing the full force of the cost of living crisis.

“The charity can easily afford to give workers a fair pay deal and Unite is firmly on their side.”

A St Mungo’s spokesperson confirmed they had received official notice from Unite of the balloting for potential strike action.

A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that our efforts to conclude this matter – which include early adoption and implementation of the 2022/23 pay rise of £1,925 (an average increase of 5.5%) and an additional cost of living payment of £700 for the majority of our staff – have so far been unsuccessful.

“We will continue to do all we can to avoid a strike, for our colleagues, for our partners and most importantly for our clients.

“Whatever the outcome of the ballot, our focus remains their safety and welfare on and running the vital services which support them.”

Unite the Union have a signification membership in the not-for-profit sector, having represented workers at the housing charity Shelter in a pay dispute earlier this year.

Over 600 staff from the housing charity Shelter took an ‘unprecedented’ two-week strike over pay last December.

The dispute started when staff were offered a 3% pay rise from the employer, accounting for a real-terms pay cut against inflation and leaving some of their own staff unable to pay their rent and at risk of being homeless themselves, according to Unite.

Employees accepted an offer in January for a 7% pay increase plus a non-consolidated payment of £1,250.

Salary inequality was also call-out, with the Shelter Chief Executive on a starting salary of £122,500 in 2017.

Charity staff are usually paid on scales linked to local government pay, who have suffered a real-terms cut of 21% after 11 years of pay freezes.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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