Frontline workers at homeless charity St Mungos Broadway have voted to go on a ten-day strike next week in protest over changes to pay and conditions days after a week-long action ended last Friday.
Staff were motivated to vote for a second round of action, which starts next Wednesday, by a mix of anger at senior management’s intransigence and increasing public support for their plight.
Unite the Union’s regional officer Nicky Marcus said the pressure was building on management to negotiate as council’s re-evaluated contracts, donors threatened to withdraw funds and MPs condemned the organisation in parliament.
In a statement she said: “The fact that our members are prepared to take 17-days of strike action shows the complete failure of the new management team to engage with our members who look after some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
“Many of [their donors] have contacted us to voice their disgust at the new management’s approach and the cheap labour model they have introduced and are considering withdrawing their funding.”
The dispute began in July when management announced a £5,000 cut for new starters, plans to downgrade existing roles, an end to collective bargaining and reduced employment protection and union representation.
SMB’s chief executive, Howard Sinclair, who has been given a £30,000 pay rise, said the changes were necessary as funding pressures and demand for services increased.
There has also been anger over allegations the former chief executive, Charles Fraser, was given a £157,000 pay-off despite retiring anyway and huge pay rises for other executives.
Marcus said: “I think that most of their donors would be appalled to know where their hard-earned money is going.”
Staff are also angry over the charity’s failure to consult with them before imposing the new conditions in July. The following month they were approached for their views by email; allegedly described by Sinclair as ‘retrospective consultation’.
In a previous statement Sinclair said: “Our board responded to feedback from individuals about original proposals during a two month consultation period and made amendments to some of those proposals. We did not receive any specific proposals from Unite representatives during that consultation, nor have we since.”
Frontline workers have warned the cuts will compromise services as morale is damaged and experienced staff leave.
Hackney Council subsequently announced it will re-evaluate its contract with SMB and expressed disappointment over management’s failure to properly consult. A Unite spokesperson said Camden, Lewisham and Ealing are considering the same.
And twelve Labour MPs signed an Early Day Motion, a tool for highlighting matters in parliament, that condemned SMB for: imposing the changes to staff terms and conditions, the ‘questionable financial information’ used to justify them, the chief executives pay rise and the lack of a proper consultation.
A resident at SMB’s Mare Street hostel said residents are largely sympathetic with striking staff. Grant Kingsnorth, who has lived there for more than two years, said: “Since the merger the management have behaved appallingly. If experienced staff do leave, anyone they recruit will be of an inferior quality because the pay is £5,000 less.”
He also criticised SMB’s contingency plan during the industrial action last week. He said: “It was like living on the Mary Celeste during the strike last week with almost no contact with staff whatsoever. God only knows what would happen if anything kicked off. At the best of times the residents can be a volatile group of people. The management’s contingency plan has been woeful.”
St Mungo’s Broadway have failed to respond to repeated attempts to contact them.