Mean-spirited bosses at St Mungo’s have triggered the first strike at the homeless charity which will hit the homeless of Hitchin.
And it raises the question of how the homeless relying on the 17-bed hostel in the north Hertfordshire market town will cope as temperatures drop because of the management’s refusal to align the pay and conditions of the six project workers with the rest of the charity’s workforce, as promised.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said that its members were reluctantly taking strike action at the Nightingale Road hostel for a week from 15.00 on Saturday 30 November.
The strike follows the management reneging on an agreement to assimilate the staff, who had been working at the hostel under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, onto the St Mungo’s terms and conditions at a total cost of £5,000 a year.
Unite regional officer Nicky Marcus said: "No one cares more about the homeless adults using the North Herts Sanctuary shelter than our members and they are rightly worried about their clients as temperatures drop.
“However, they have been forced to take this action as the management has acted in bad faith. It promised to align the staff’s terms and conditions to that of the rest of the workforce – but then reneged at the last minute.
“Management is flatly denying any such agreement was made, but we have copies of emails and budgets used throughout months of negotiations, to the contrary.
“We believe that this is the first strike at St Mungo’s since it was set up in 1969 to help people sleeping rough off the streets.
“The six members are St Mungo's employees. They adhere to St Mungo's shifts and duties, and are subject to St Mungo's policies and procedures.
“However, they work more hours for less pay than other St Mungo's workers. They have less holiday entitlement and an outdated 'discretionary' sickness policy that St Mungo's management has used, outrageously, over the last year to refuse any sick pay, whatsoever, to workers undergoing cancer investigations and surgery.
“Unfortunately, it seems that this is not a question of money, since it would cost St Mungo's just under £5,000 a year to do the right thing.
“Management's refusal to even discuss this with Unite seems to be more indicative of an insidious ‘corporatisation’ led by the new director of HR who seems hell bent on destroying the previously mutually productive relationship between Unite and St Mungo's.
“We urge Charles Fraser, the charity’s chief executive, with whom we have successfully negotiated countless issues over the years to contact us to negotiate a way forward.”
For further information please contact Nick Marcus on 07980 721425 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
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Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey