St Mungo’s workers rally on first day of month-long strike

'If St Mungos think this is going to be a flash in the pan, they're very much mistaken'

Workers from the homeless charity St Mungos staged a lively rally in central London today as workers across the south of England commence a month-long strike over pay.

In a dispute which has brought into sharp focus the disparity of wages between those working for the charity on the frontline, and the bosses in the central London office, staff at the strike expressed their anger and determination to win a decent wage rise.  

Workers are now saying ‘enough is enough’ as they struggle themselves to afford their own bills against cost of living increases, whilst supporting the most vulnerable in society.

With larger and increasingly complex caseloads due to the rise of rough sleeping from service cuts, also adding to burn out and worker frustrations.

Unite members are calling for a 10% pay rise, having seen their pay cut in real terms by 25% since 2010.

Whilst the union says the charity CEO has seen their salary increase by 77% since 2013, from £107k to £189,418.

At the end of April, 90% of St Mungo’s workers rejected the most recent offer by their management of a 2.25% pay rise.

Steve O’Donnell, Unite Regional Officer, said staff were determined to continue taking strike action until they get an acceptable pay offer.

“What I am hearing on the picket lines is that, having seen the demonstration today, people are more determined to make sure they stick it out for the full four weeks or until they get an offer that’s acceptable to them,” O’Donnell told LFF.

“So if St Mungo’s think this is going to be a flash in the pan, they’re very much mistaken.”

In a dispute which goes back to 2021, O’Donnell said workers were ‘running on empty’ whilst the charity leadership made big gains.   

“They keep telling us they have got no money, but if you look at their accounts, it says they’ve got £22 million pounds in cash and £13 million in reserves.

“So the account suggests there’s plenty of money to give our members an increase.”

Workers are demanding an inflation matching pay rise

He suggested charity management can rely on the dedication of frontline workers in the hope of avoiding strike action.

“These people do the job, they care about what they do, they’re passionate about what they do. So they were hoping that they won’t walk out. And there was some worry about that.

“There was some concern, but what the members were saying is, enough is enough.

“They can’t just keep running on empty whilst they see senior leadership walking away with loads of money. And these people are on very little, the average wage is £24,000.”

He added that there was ‘real anger’, evident in the demand from members for a four-week strike.

“St Mungo’s keep playing dirty tricks, trying to undermine the strike, trying to prevent people from striking.

“They’ve changed the way they process payroll, so more comes out of their July pay, they didn’t need to do that.

“But all that does is just make members more angry.”

Jeremy Corbyn came out to address the strikers, condemning the level of inequality in London.  

“What have we come to in our society that we tolerate the idea that a small percentage of us can live in the most desperate poverty and that we give tax breaks to the very richest, that they may spend even more on yet another billionaire’s row apartment overlooking our river? We need equality and justice in our society.”

Corbyn added: “There is a moral imperative in this country that somehow or other, if you work in the health service, if you work in the care service, if you work in the voluntary sector care services and support services as you do, somehow, you’re doing it at the goodness of your heart and the price of bread has no effect on you whatsoever.

“Over the past ten years, yourselves and every other working class household in the whole country has had at least a 20% fall in their living standards over the past ten years, at the same time as there’s more billionaires than ever in this country.

“I support you, because you deserve decent pay. You’re only asking for an inflation level pay increase so that you can continue the fantastic work that you do.”

Emma Haddad, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, has issued a statement saying: “Our latest offer, combined with the annual pay rise proposed by the National Joint Council, would have meant a pay rise of at least 10% for those colleagues on the lowest salaries. This is what Unite has been asking for but voted against it. 

“After all our efforts to find a solution to this dispute, a four-week strike is unprecedented and disproportionate. It will impact vulnerable people at risk of or recovering from homelessness. 

“My door remains open to Unite, every day during the strike.” 

Strikes will continue in London, Brighton, Bristol and Oxford as well as rallies throughout the month-long strike by workers from St Mungos.

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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