St Mungo's staff to strike for three days amid 'race to the bottom' jobs row

Hundreds of St Mungo's staff are scheduled to strike at the end of the month amid a 'race to the bottom' jobs row.

Staff intend to strike for three days from Monday 16 to Wednesday 18 March after 'talks broke down' between the charity's senior leadership and Unite the union.

Last month, staff at the charity voted by 83.7% to strike over sickness policy and disciplinary procedures. A total of 289 of Unite's 500 members turned up to vote and 241 voted to strike. There are 1,690 staff working for the charity.

The dispute is based on breaches of the 'junior staffing cap' – an agreement between the charity and the union – which Unite claims enforces a "reinstatement of race to the bottom terms and conditions". It is also based on a number of other issues, including the charity’s 'disproportionate and unfair use of disciplinary procedures and onerous sickness policy'.

Unite, which currently represents over 500 staff from the homelessness charity, accused the charity of "pulling the rug out from under workers, when it tore up the junior staffing cap agreement, in a bid to bring in a cheaper workforce in May 2019".

However, the charity's CEO, Howard Sinclair argued a strike is "completely unnecessary" and he is "disappointed that talks with Unite officials have broken down" after spending three days at Acas.

“St Mungo’s went to ACAS wanting to resolve this dispute with Unite, but our attempts were shut down," he said.

"Unite refused to discuss seven of the eight issues balloted on and, of the one issue discussed, didn’t offer evidence to support their misunderstanding of numbers around the junior staffing cap, instead proposing unfair changes that could lead to staff redundancies.

"St Mungo’s remains committed to finding an agreement with Unite but we cannot go against our core values and put staff at risk of redundancy.

“A strike is completely unnecessary. We are not cutting pay, changing terms and conditions, or making people redundant. St Mungo’s is a good place to work. We ensure our staff are among the best paid in the sector and our clients say we help them make positive changes in their lives.

“Now that St Mungo’s has been given two weeks notice of a strike, we will have to implement contingency plans to ensure the interests of our most vulnerable clients and the charity as a whole is protected. No one wins in a strike. We ask Unite to help us resolve this through more discussion about all the issues in dispute and by not putting our most vulnerable clients in unnecessary risk.”

Unite has warned some disruption will be caused during the strike and staff and local commissioners have been urged to put pressure on the charity’s senior management to accept the Acas junior staffing proposal.

“Unite is bitterly disappointed that St Mungo’s senior management has rejected a sound and sensible solution, proposed at Acas, to settle our long running dispute over changes senior management made to the junior staffing cap agreement," Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said.

“Our members now feel they have no option but to walk out. Their clients’ safety is their priority which is why they feel so strongly about standing up and defending the services they deliver.

“This strike isn’t about money, it’s about protecting jobs and defending the safety and high quality services our members deliver.

“Without the junior staffing cap there is nothing to stop the CEO from bringing in a cheaper workforce on lower pay and worse terms and conditions."

Sinclair is due to step down from his role in the autumn, but Unite has urged the chief executive to leave immediately.

“CEO Howard Sinclair has lost the trust of our members, who are on the frontline dealing with some of society’s most marginalised and vulnerable people, he must step down immediately.”

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