Why are st mungo’s staff striking?

Hundreds of staff at homeless housing charity St Mungo’s took the difficult decision to withdraw their labour after a year long dispute and take strike action last week. The charity’s staff are dedicated and work with some of the most vulnerable homeless people.

St Mungo’s started as a small group of people who decided to do something to help the people they saw sleeping rough on the streets of London. They started by going out, talking to people, offering food and what assistance they could. Today, it is the largest charitable housing association working in the field. This was during the time of ‘Cathy Come Home’, the acclaimed BBC play which sparked a public debate about homelessness in the late 1960s.

The staff want proper sickness pay and procedures and to end the “race to the bottom” on terms and conditions.

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “The last thing our members want is to cause hardship to vulnerable homeless people. But after more than a year of having their demands to be treated more fairly ignored, they’ve had enough.

“This was a resounding vote against a heavy-handed and bullying management style.

“Our members’ demands – that management respect staffing agreements, staff terms and conditions, and end their draconian use of discipline and hostility towards their chosen trade union – are reasonable.

“The time has come for management to negotiate and to rebuild trust.”

A recent Employment Tribunal, Ms Leigh Andrews vs St Mungo’s concluded that victimisation had taken place. It is against this background, that Unite the Union began negotiations and this has led to strike action.

Why St Mungo’s workers are striking

In Lewisham, striking staff and their supporters were invited to demonstrate outside the St Mungo’s New Cross Assessment Centre in the morning. Trade Unionists expressed their solidarity. The BAME Forum of the Deptford Labour Party were present alongside the Lewisham TUC Trades Council and local Councillors.

Lewisham Councillor Alan Hall said: “St Mungo’s workers are on the front line of the housing crisis. If we don’t support them, they can’t support the homeless – this is vital work.”  

“Howard Sinclair the CEO needs to regain the trust of staff as these are the people who built St Mungos.” 

Rallies were held outside Hackney Town Hall and Camden Town Hall later that day where speakers included Jim Kelly, Chair, London Labour Party.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP was kept in the Commons due to the coronavirus crisis but he tweeted his solidarity.

St Mungo’s Housing Staff Set to Strike

Hundreds of members of staff working for St Mungo’s the  homeless charity,  are set to strike this week – Monday (16 March) to Wednesday (18 March) this comes after staff voted by 83.7 per cent for action in a dispute over the reinstatement of ‘race to the bottom’ terms and conditions and a punitive sickness policy according to Unite the Union.

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “The last thing our members want is to cause hardship to vulnerable homeless people. But after more than a year of having their demands to be treated more fairly ignored, they’ve had enough.”

In a further twist in the bitter dispute, Unite the union, has warned the St Mungo’s CEO, Howard Sinclair to ‘stop blaming staff for your leadership mistakes.’ In response to the CEO’s calls for the strike to be suspended because of the cornavirus outbreak, Unite has said that it will follow government guidance and not be bullied by Mr Sinclair.

In a message from the charity’s frontline staff to their vulnerable ‘clients’, Unite members have said“Your safety is our priority, which is why we feel so strongly about standing up to defend the services we deliver to you.”

Unite has welcomed St Mungo’s commitment to change its sickness policy in light of cornavirus, but says that it must go further and scrap the onerous requirement of making workers call two people when off sick.

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A St Mungo’s staffer who wanted to remain anonymous said: “Yet again Howard Sinclair is embroiled with another dispute in his tenure as CEO at St Mungos; this shows his blatant disregard for St Mungo’s workers. He says he wants to come to a  compromise, however, Mr Sinclair goes to the Daily Telegraph to berate the Union’s General Secretary.”

“I understand that Mr Sinclair is self isolating from a cough and cold, which we hear through the Daily Telegraph…..Members do not take industrial action lightly however, there comes a time when enough is enough.”

Cllr Alan Hall supports the union’s action because staff are standing up and being counted. They work on the frontline of the housing crisis and they deserve not be bullied into accepting worse working terms and conditions.

Goldsmith’s Staff ‘Strike Back’

Goldsmith’s College staff, members of the University and College Union (UCU) took strike action between Monday 9th and Friday 14th March. The strike was called to address the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. The hashtag is #UCUStrikesback

In addition, Goldsmith’s UCU have said: “We are currently in dispute with management in relation to a programme of cuts, centralisation and redundancies, “Evolving Goldsmiths”, that has been introduced without meaningful consultation. We are currently preparing for a local ballot for industrial action aimed at suspending the programme and encouraging discussions with staff and students on the future of our institution.”

Over 70 Professors have founded a Professors’ Forum at Goldsmiths on March 5th, 2020. Their founding statement says: “We established the Forum specifically in response to the complete lack of consultation with staff over the introduction of the Evolving Goldsmiths restructure plan. We are opposed to a mode of governance that does not recognise and include the diverse experiences of all staff in responding to current challenges.” The full document is here

Richard Burgon MP Jovan AH Goldsmiths UCU March 2020

The national  UCU has warned that they will ballot members after this wave of strikes if the dispute is not resolved. This is to ensure their branches could take action until the end of the academic year. Strike mandates are only legally valid for six months, this means those branches who walked out in November would need to secure a fresh mandate to be able to continue to take action after April 2020.

New Videos: TGI Fridays Tips and Fair Pay Dispute – Bank Holiday Strike

 

TGI Fridays faced protests and a three day strike over fair pay and tips over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The dispute arose when the company introduced a new tipping policy in January with only two days’ notice which has seen card tips earned by the waiting staff redirected to top up the low wages of kitchen staff, a move the company claims is driven by the need to stop the high turnover of kitchen staff. Read an account from waiting staff here

Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said: “It is inexcusable that a company, which claims to have the best interests of its workers at heart, can continue to refuse to sit down with our members and their union to settle this dispute.

“It takes immense courage to take on a hedge-funded owed, multi-million company like TGI Fridays but the support that our members have had from the public has been great.

“It is companies like TGI Fridays that give the hospitality industry a bad reputation. The sooner it realises that workers will no longer stand idly by and be exploited, the better it will be.

“Unite will continue to make the case for action in these branches to expose bad practice across the entire business.

“Our message to the company is ‘pay your staff fairly and talk to the union’. Together we can find a sensible solution to this dispute.”

On Friday, 24th August, Unites’ Greenwich, Lewisham & Bexley Community Branch Chair Alan Hall joined the picket line in Covent Garden, London chanting:

“Forget the burgers, forget the chips, we want fair tips”

 

 

 

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