St Mungo's workers and Unite union members protest about pay

St Mungo’s homeless charity workers vote for indefinite strike as pay dispute deepens

Workers at a homeless charity based in east London have voted for an indefinite strike.

A month-long strike had been called on May 30 after a 2.25% pay rise offer was rejected amid concerns about the cost of living.

But earlier this week, members of the Unite union voted for an indefinite walkout.

A Unite official said: “The charity has stubbornly refused to improve its pitiful offer despite St Mungo’s having £16 million in cash and substantial reserves.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “The workers know St Mungo’s can afford to improve front line workers’ pay.”

Tensions led to indefinite strike

St Mungo’s has been helping homeless people off the streets since 1969. The charity is based in Tower Hill, east London.

Rough sleeper navigator Lorna Fraser, 37, from Blackpool, Lancs., said: “It’s not just about pay, but about culture.

“It’s become very corporatized.

“They’ve lost the fundamentals of why it was created.”

Zak Cochrane, 37, a case worker in the Through Care Team, started at St Mungo’s on the first day of lockdown on 23 March, 2020.

He was immediately sent to work in a hotel housing homeless people with what he described as inadequate PPE.

He said: “Covid was extremely scary at the time.

“We were put in a position where we couldn’t self-isolate.”

After the pandemic union reps asked for a pay rise to reflect what they claimed was the dedication of staff in difficult circumstances.

St Mungo’s offered a 1.75% pay rise.

Unite claim St Mungo’s chief executive pay rose from £107,000 pa in 2013 to an estimated £189,000 pa by 2023.

Cochrane added: “Colleagues are at risk of homelessness themselves, topped up by universal credit and food banks.”

He admitted the decision to vote for an indefinite strike was difficult but felt a stand had to be taken.

“If we don’t do this now, there won’t be a homeless sector in the future.”

St Mungo’s said it was not in a position to discuss its chief executive’s pay and refuted Unite’s claims of a £16 million surplus.

A charity spokesperson claimed reserves will fall compared to previous published accounts.

St Mungo’s chief executive Emma Haddad said: “It was unexpected to hear that Unite has extended its period of strike action indefinitely.

“We are in the middle of discussions and bringing an end to this unprecedented period of industrial action remains our key priority.”

Picture credit: Alan Kenny

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