St Mungo’s Broadway staff to strike for 10 days in battle to maintain quality services at housing charity

Staff at St Mungo’s Broadway (SMB) are preparing for 10 days of strike action in the battle to preserve quality services for the homeless and to roll-back the management’s attack on their pay, and terms and conditions.

Unite, the country’s largest union which has 650 members at the Hammersmith-based charity, announced today (Thursday 30 October) that staff would be striking from 08.00 on Wednesday 5 November until 07.59 on Saturday 15 November.

At a mass meeting this week, the staff, who were addressed by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, voted to take the further strike action. This follows a week-long strike which ended last Friday (24 October).

Len McCluskey emphasised the vital importance of the strike, not only for both current and future workers and the clients at SMB, but for all involved in the supported housing and social care sector.

He pledged the union’s full support ‘in every way possible, in a pivotal dispute that is really about respect; respect for vulnerable people and the workers that care for them’.

The dispute is now the subject of a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) with MPs supporting the workers’ stand.

Local councillors and commissioners from several local authorities, including Camden, Hackney, Ealing, and Lewisham, who commission services from St Mungo’s specifically because they seek a high quality provider are concerned about how these contracts will now be fulfilled to an adequate standard.

The social housing regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency has been contacted regarding issues relating to governance, procurement and the alleged misuse of public funds.

Unite regional officer, Nicky Marcus said:

“The new SMB senior executive team provided Unite with ‘doctored’ accounts designed to obscure a £157,538 pay-off, in addition to his hefty salary, for Charles Fraser, the former CEO of St Mungo’s who was retiring regardless of the merger. We don’t know, as yet, what other pay-offs have been made. ”

“The top executives refuse to provide details of their own salary hikes, although we are aware that new chief executive Howard Sinclair’s increase is £30,000.”

“I think that most of their donors would be appalled to know where their hard-earned money is going.”

“Indeed, many of them 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.”

“St Mungo’s property portfolio was valued at £101 million 15 years ago and they have continued to buy property ever since. I can only imagine what it is worth today. This is not about there being no money available. It is about a re-distribution of wealth.”

The crux of the dispute is what Unite calls ‘a bizarre coup d’état’ which saw Broadway, a ‘struggling’ organisation of 200 employees making year on year deficits merging with the highly successful 1,000-strong St Mungo’s.

Unite has said there is a blatant unfairness between huge pay rises that the top bosses have received recently – including the £30,000 pocketed by Howard Sinclair – while new project workers have seen their pay slashed by £5,000 to £20,00-a-year.

Other adverse changes included the removal of pay negotiations from collective bargaining; procedural changes which compromise employees’ ability to defend themselves in disciplinary and grievance hearings; and making it easier for management to force through redundancies; re-grading roles to de-skilled lower paid versions and sidelining the union entirely.

Nicky Marcus added:

“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 in society.”

“If Howard Sinclair and his team seriously wish to resolve this dispute, they need only pick up the phone or arrange a meeting with the conciliation service, Acas.”