Shelter workers begin ‘unprecedented’ two-week strike over pay

A fortnight of strike action at homelessness charity shelter has started today (December 5).

According to the union Unite this is set to involve more than 600 workers.

The action has been taken after workers rejected a 3% pay increase for 2022, which Unite says has been “imposed” and leaves staff with a “huge real terms pay cut of 11 per cent” considering double digit inflation.

The union said the management’s pay award “has left many of its own staff being unable to pay rent leaving them haunted by being made homeless”.

It added that the two week of strike action, which starts this week and had been announced last month is “unprecedented” and comes as relations between staff and management “has become increasingly bitter”.

Talks took place last week but collapsed after the charity “refused to increase” its pay offer for 2022, according to Unite.

Instead, Shelter offered a 4% increase for 2023/23 “with no further pay increase for staff until April 2024. This “amounted to a further substantial pay cut of at least 10% for its staff”, added the Union.

Unite has accused the charity’s management of refusing to “enter into meaningful negotiations with representatives of Unite over this year’s pay deal and has instead sought to impose one-off payments and real terms pay cuts for the next 16 months”.

“It is unforgivable that workers at Shelter find themselves actually being haunted by the prospect of being made homeless,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“Shelter has sufficient reserves to pay its hardworking and dedicated staff a decent pay rise but it has chosen not to.

“Our members at Shelter will receive Unite’s complete and unyielding support in their fight for a better deal.”

Strike action will end on Friday December 16.

Offices impacted include its London headquarters as well as offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Blackburn, Norwich, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Newcastle and Sheffield.

One charity staff member said: “At the very base level, absolute bare minimum, those working for a housing charity shouldn't be experiencing housing insecurity as a result of being unable to pay rent.”

Another said: “I'm a single parent. I'm now in overdraft every month. I go around switching my lights off. I have turned my boiler down. I get stressed when the kids’ school wants me to pay for another school trip.

"The best acknowledgement my employer can give me for all my hard work is decent pay.”

Shelter's response to strike action

“Regrettably the cost-of-living crisis is impacting both our colleagues and operational costs, and we are doing everything we can to navigate these challenging economic times," said Tim Gutteridge, Shelter's director of finance and strategy enablement.

"Industrial action is not the outcome we wanted after months of talks with the union, but we fully respect people’s right to strike.

“Some of our services and shops will be temporarily impacted during the strike, but we are making every effort to continue to serve those in need of our help. Anyone who needs urgent housing advice should visit here to access our digital advice, and services information."

He added: "Our ambition remains trying to support colleagues through this difficult period, while being able to deliver our frontline services and campaign work. This year we gave all staff a pay rise – which for non-management staff means an increase of between 8% and 12.3% - consisting of a 3% consolidated increase and a one-off payment of £1,500.

“As a Real Living Wage employer, Shelter is also implementing the Real Living Wage Foundation’s increase of 10.1% from December 2022, much earlier than required, benefiting the colleagues who receive this at the earliest opportunity.”

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