Staff at St Mungo’s homelessness charity have been in a protracted dispute with their bosses for months. It’s over pay and working conditions. Now, their trade union, Unite, is taking further action – organising a mass rally on Thursday 10 August.
St Mungo’s: treating staff like shit for years
St Mungo’s and its bosses have been causing problems for their staff for years. For example, in 2014 staff took industrial action at one hostel after St Mungo’s pulled out of managing it. More recently, in 2020 – as the Canary previously reported – staff voted for industrial action over threats to jobs, working conditions, and homeless peoples’ services.
Regarding the most recent round of industrial action, Unite Housing Workers wrote on its website:
Staff have been doing very badly – the average amount the charity spends on each employee fell in cash terms by 2% in 2022, and by more than 10% after allowing for inflation.
Meanwhile the CEO’s pay increased in 2022 to £189k, a 5% increase on the previous year, and almost five times the pay of the average worker at the charity!
This 2022 increase comes on top of other rewards for the highest paid staff. In 2020-21 the pay of the 9 highest paid members of staff increased by an estimated 16%, costing an additional £150,000!
That is to say that bosses at an alleged ‘charity’ have been raking it in, while staff and service users suffer. So, Unite members have been striking.
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Latest trade union action
As Socialist Worker reported, by Thursday 3 August:
St Mungo’s workers [were] on their tenth week of strikes – and sixth of indefinite action. Some 500 Unite members walked out for four weeks on Tuesday 30 May to demand a 10 percent pay increase. Now union membership is up to around 800, and the strikers have escalated to indefinite action until management caves.
This indefinite action began on 27 June after a paltry pay rise offer of 3.7%. Meanwhile, bosses have been using scab agencies to cover for striking staff. So, Unite members up and down the country have carried out consistent action:
Meanwhile in Bristol our comrades are keeping up the pressure on Rocasa to stop 🛑 supplying agency staff to 🪧 break. ⛔️🔥🌤️🔥 pic.twitter.com/tHnN1NhZWm
— St Mungo's Unite (@SMUnite) July 27, 2023
😀😃All smiles at Rochester Row this morning. 😃😃 pic.twitter.com/yEqdOCIMnj
— St Mungo's Unite (@SMUnite) July 27, 2023
Reading before and after the rain 🌧️ pic.twitter.com/JZJEHvLrTw
— St Mungo's Unite (@SMUnite) July 24, 2023
Unite boss Sharon Graham has been supporting them:
This morning I visited @SMUnite members on the picket line. @StMungos have executives on well over £100,000 a year and the same people insist their workers should exist on poverty wages with actual wage cuts. Unite supports our members in their fight for fair #JobsPayConditions. pic.twitter.com/b9IDk9Ycyr
— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) July 19, 2023
— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) August 1, 2023
Now, Unite are taking things up a gear.
The union and its members are holding a mass rally on 10 August:
Join Thursday's #StMungosStrike rally: https://t.co/VcjvMdVfG2 #HousingWorkers #Strike #homelessness #ukhousing @SMUnite @Unite4Society @UniteLondonEast @UniteLE524 @NSSN_AntiCuts @oladele_olusola @1917paul @UniteNE40315 @andreaamorillo @andyunite @Muna_Suz pic.twitter.com/FbxzyC2mn1
— UniteHousingWorkers (@UniteHousing) August 6, 2023
Guardian columnist Owen Jones will be speaking:
At noon 🕛 outside 3 Thomas More Sq, London, E1W 1YW 🗣️🔈📣📢 pic.twitter.com/E8FCrJjmDX
— St Mungo's Unite (@SMUnite) August 7, 2023
St Mungo’s bosses: profiting off misery and homelessness?
However, the problems with St Mungo’s run far deeper than just its shitty treatment of its workers. As the Canary reported in 2017:
A new report shows homelessness charities are working with the Home Office to deport non-UK rough sleepers.
The investigation by Corporate Watch found that outreach teams from the charities St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, and Change, Grow, Live (CGL) have all been working with Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) officers on patrols that target rough sleepers in London.
Charity outreach teams should help rough sleepers to access support. Instead, by teaming up with the Home Office, they expose vulnerable people to detention and deportation.
Moreover, the homelessness charity sector itself is hardly a beacon of righteous egalitarianism. At the end of last year, bosses at Shelter left workers with no choice but to strike after their dire pay offer:
“We can’t do the work if we can’t pay the rent.”
Charity workers who help the homeless are facing homelessness themselves.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 14, 2022
The Shelter workers’ battle may give hope to their St Mungo’s colleagues, though – as bosses there backed down in the end, tabling a half-decent pay offer, which staff accepted.
The St Mungo’s branch of Unite tweeted how you can support the striking workers:
Here's some ways you can support our strike ✊
1) Donate to our Hardship fund via our JustGiving page 👇https://t.co/9sOQFvEIEv
Donate Directly (avoids JustGiving Fee)
Account number: 20040626
Sort code: 608301
Unite Housing Workers LE/1111 Branch
— St Mungo's Unite (@SMUnite) August 4, 2023
Join a union, charity workers
The behaviour of so-called charities is sadly often akin to the corporate sector – St Mungo’s and Shelter being two examples. This clearly shows the need for workers in this sector to organise themselves. As one St Mungo’s staff member told the website Angry Workers:
I guess just really to remind people that without coming together and unionising we wouldn’t be at the point where we’re at now, and we just have to continue to do this. Because even if we get something, just looking back at the past we know we could be at risk of losing it at any time. It’s only if we stand strong and we know what our rights are and what the history is, and what’s been stripped away, that we’ll be able to fight it.
St Mungo’s staff are fighting not just for themselves but also for the homeless people they provide essential services for. So, if you’re in London on 10 August, support their protest for better pay and conditions in any way you can.
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