St Mungo’s strikers are battling to keep their strike alive as Unite union officials and some reps try to wrap up the indefinite strike.
During their 13th week of action, the homelessness charity strikers are voting on a £1,200 pay offer that equates to around 4 percent. The ballot closes on Friday.
Reps had voted to recommend rejecting the deal, but changed that at the beginning of this week in a “confidential meeting” that was closed to members. The reps are now offering no recommendation. But some, including the convenor, have been phone-banking members to accept the deal.
Meanwhile, members who have been key in leading the strike have been convincing fellow strikers to vote against the deal, continue the strike and fight for more. “We have a members’ meeting on Thursday as there’s been a lot of questions raised. It seems the reps have been holding onto their pride,” one striker told Socialist Worker.
“They changed their recommendation after the head of HR sent a letter about senior management’s pay being frozen until January.
“But in a question and answer with CEO Emma Haddad she said it was only four of 23 senior management that would be affected, including her.
“The reps didn’t actually look at the terms and conditions of the new deal. People are now realising that it’s not a worked-out deal.
“Not only is it crap, but the finer detail isn’t there. Even the backpay doesn’t make sense. One question was if it was backdated to April, would it be for striking workers—people didn’t realise it wouldn’t be in place for them.”
The striker explained that members have been changing their minds after hearing more about the deal. “We’ve had people changing their votes,” the striker said. “We’ve had to unpick things as they’ve been told things that just aren’t true. They’re confused why the convenor has been telling them to vote for it.
“It’s all got quite messy. If it was accepted and was a good deal is one thing, but when it’s not been worked out and people feel deceived, that’s another.”
The striker thinks the St Mungo’s workers can win more. “People are clear and determined, and know exactly what we need to do,” they said. “Another drive has been our demo on 2 September, people are excited about that. It will hopefully bring people together.
“I’m sick of hearing that some workers are paid well and that it’s the fault of the market that Haddad can’t do anything about her pay—it’s rubbish. One of our colleagues is sofa surfing this week because she can’t afford her rent.
“Our march is for the future of the homeless sector. It all needs to change, from how contracts are rendered to trying to make everything cheaper.”
And as far as the strike is concerned, the striker said they’re “not going backwards”. The striker added there Unite has also changed its tone. “You’d think the union would be supportive, but it feels like we’re being held back,” they said. “The incentive should be there for us to win but then the union business side of it comes into play.
“General secretary Sharon Graham said we’d have the full backing of the union. We’ll see now with our demo how much they support it to be a national one.”
It is clear management is rocked by the strikers’ determination—but Unite’s moves to wrap the strike up play straight into its hands.
“The same email from HR also said we should suspend the strike plus our activity in targeting donors—clearly it’s bothering them,” the striker said. “It shows if we keep going it won’t be too long until we get something better. They don’t want to keep looking bad.
“We’re also voting until 13 September to extend our strike mandate. Winter will be really dangerous for the service not to be open. They’ll need us back into work by then. But to do that we need a proper offer.”
- National march for the homelessness sector, Saturday 2 September in central London