Homelessness charity workers to strike for a month over ‘pitiful’ pay offer

Staff are ‘fed up’ and at the ‘end of their tether’ in a pay dispute going back to 2021

Unite the Union

Staff at the homeless charity St Mungo’s will take strike action for a month after rejecting a ‘pitiful’ 2.25% pay offer, Unite the union has announced.

In a pay dispute going back to 2021, the charity workforce at St Mungo’s has been left ‘fed up’ with the wage disparity between workers on the frontline and highly paid management.

Whilst anger among the workforce has seen union members ‘joining in droves’, Unite has said, as staff have been left unable to pay their bills, whilst charity bosses experience large pay rises.  

The new wave of strike action comes after the charity increased their pay offer to staff from an initial 1.75% to 2.25%, which was rejected by a margin of 91%.  

It comes in stark contrast to the 350% pay increase senior management at St Mungo’s have experienced in the last ten years, according to Unite, as the real value of wages of St Mungo’s workers dropped by 25%, with a frontline worker earning around £26,000.  

St Mungo’s has previously rejected the claim from Unite that the charity’s chief executives are paid up to £189,000, however they refused to offer an alternative figure or reveal the salary of their newly appointed CEO.  

Steve O’Donnell, Unite regional officer, said that workers were ‘fed up’ with the wage disparity and that bosses need to ‘wake up’ to this reality, so workers can continue to focus on the charity’s invaluable work for homelessness.

“The workers are fed up with highly paid management at top of their homeless charity while at the bottom they struggle to make ends meet,” said O’Donnell.

“The workers are at the end of their tether, they don’t want to be on strike but they can’t pay the bills.”

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, has accused the charity management of being ‘indifferent’ to the financial pressures of their own staff.

“Charity workers who are on the streets helping the homeless are now prepared to go on strike for a month for a decent wage,” said Graham.

“This shows what they think of the way they’ve been treated by St Mungo’s management. The pitiful pay offer has just made everyone in the union angrier.”

Graham called on the management to make Unite members a decent pay offer to avoid a month long strike action.

“Their indifference to the financial pressures facing their own staff is quite frankly astonishing,” she added.

A St Mungo’s spokesperson said they were ‘very disappointed’ that their new offer had been rejected by union and expressed concern for the impact of strike action on their service users.

“We have compromised and tried everything possible to reach a reasonable negotiation and avoid strike action, and we believe our new offer was fair and appropriate. Our lines of communication with Unite will remain open as we continue to try to resolve the dispute.

“Our priority is to continue supporting our clients and people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“We have contingency plans in place to minimise the risks to our clients; however, are concerned about the impact prolonged strike action will have on our service users, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

St Mungo’s workers will take an unprecedented 28 days of strike action from 30 May to 26 June 2023.

Cost-of-living crisis hits charity sector

Staff at the homelessness charity Shelter took unprecedented strike action last year, with over 600 workers walking out, as staff themselves struggling to pay their bills and with the threat of homelessness.  

Whilst community support workers at Hounslow LIFE charity took strike action in January over Hestia management’s refusal to negotiate a cost of living pay increase for staff or provide travel expenses as workers struggled to make ends meet. This was the first industrial action in Hestia’s 50-year history.

The disputes have also put into focus the wage disparity between workers in front-line jobs and at the forefront of the work done by charities, in stark contrast to the huge difference in income for those in charity management and executive positions.

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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