St Mungos workers on the picket line in Westminster, London

St Mungo’s homeless charity workers began a month-long strike on Tuesday against bosses who are happy to pay poverty wages, while grabbing huge salaries for themselves. Some 740 workers walked out from today, joining picket lines across London, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth and Reading.  

They refuse to accept poor wages, just because they work in the charity sector and they slam bosses’ 2.25 ­percent pay offer as “pitiful”. St Mungo’s refuses to announce what CEO Emma Haddad earns but since 2013 chief executives have seen their average pay grow 77 percent to more than £189,000.

Strikes were planned for four weeks from 24 April, but the Unite union called it off to vote on the 2.25 percent offer. Members rejected this by 91 percent.

Zak is an outreach worker for the charity in Westminster, central London. “When the last strike was ­suspended members were generally not happy,” he told Socialist Worker. “We’ve been clear in members’ meetings that reps shouldn’t come back with poor offers again. Members have told reps to not pull strikes for another bad offer.”

But in the run up to the next four weeks, “We’ve got momentum building again,” Zak said. “Big and lively” pickets and rallies are planned, including one outside St Mungo’s head offices for the first day of the strike. 

“And others have been organised outside local authorities’ headquarters. We also have a record number of members now—around 740,” said Zak. “That’s gone up even since the last rejection of the poor pay offer.

“People are joining because they know there’s a strike coming and want to take part.”

Zak added, “We’ve seen this week with inflation really high that the cost of living crisis is going nowhere, especially over food prices. That’s why it’s so important that low paid workers are taking action.

“We hope there’s other homeless workers in the charity sector looking at this dispute. That’s why we want to be as impactful, make as much noise and put as much ­pressure on as possible. We want to spread the message to other workers in precarious situations that enough is enough.”

Unite is demanding a 10 percent pay rise. “That’s the bottom line,” Zak said. “I have colleagues that are in housing insecurity ­themselves and need support from council’s housing solutions teams because of the precariousness of their own situations.

“And people who are topped up by the benefits system because they’re paid so poorly. This strike has taken a while to get going but we’re determined to keep fighting to get what we deserve.”

Week One London rallies 11.30am meet for 12pm start

Monday, 1 June at Hackney Town Hall, E8 1EQ

Tuesday, 2 June at Westminster Town Hall, SW1E 6QP

Friday, 5 June at Mayor’s Office, E16 1ZE

Solidarity can beat bosses

Unite reps tried to schedule the strike around the workers’ pay day, which was around two weeks into the month, so that pay would take two small hits. Management has since changed their pay day so that almost all pay deductions come out in one month.

Zak said, “It’s a deliberate attempt to break the strike. It’s angered us more and we’ll take that feeling through. We are getting strike pay, but it comes through after our pay packet. 

“That’s why the solidarity we’re getting from the wider trade union movement has been crucial.”

The Unite Tom Mann branch in Coventry has donated £2,000 to the strike fund.

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