Strikers outside St Mungo’s agency labour supplier Corus

St Mungo’s homelessness charity workers, who are on indefinite strike, are to be consulted on a new proposal from Unite officials. 

It comes after the High Court ruled against a Tory legal change that allowed bosses to bring in agency labour to replace strikers. It was brought in last year by then business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. 

It is clearly good that this strike-breaking law has been overturned—the new rules are set to come into force on 10 August. But Unite officials are proposing that strikers should return to work early next week—ending the indefinite strike—to supposedly take advantage of the new rules. 

They say this will prevent St Mungo’s using agency staff to keep skeleton services running, and then workers should come out on 10 August on a new, indefinite strike.

So officials and reps are asking strikers to return to work after eight weeks of strikes—to what will likely be a very difficult workplace situation.

This will lead to a period where strikers are cleaning up after the impact of their own strike—it will be a very intense and stressful time. Some have said that this will be a chance to “go back in and get other members out” in light of the renewed potential of the new rules. But this seems somewhat far-fetched.

If some members are thinking that they will join strikes from 10 August, then does it really make a difference if strikers go back to work too? 

While on strike, St Mungo’s workers have held a series of important, continual protests. We’ve protested outside councils with St Mungo’s contracts, outside trustees’ business addresses, targeting the agencies this week. And we have raised more than £35,000 for the hardship fund. All that will cease if workers go back in. 

Just this week, protests have forced agency Morgan Hunt to stop providing scab labour.  The solidarity days have brought out first-time strikers in Southwark and Westminster in London—with the promise of more. And, the school holidays will create further pressures on bosses attempting to deliver services.

Going back in would mean—for the first time in eight weeks—the advantage would be ceded to the bosses, not St Mungo’s strikers. They would have a chance to regroup. Our members’ best opportunity to strategise is on the picket line and in forums such as the pan-London strike committee that’s been set up. 

It is a recipe for disaster to throw away the momentum we have established. The next three weeks through until 10 August will provide many opportunities to pressure bosses.

This will be the third time that reps have voted for members to be consulted on an issue in the strike. Twice before, members have rejected their recommendations. Last time reps pushed for a members vote on a rotten deal that amounted to a little over 3 percent. This was far short of Unite’s demand of a 10 percent pay increase—which is already below even the new, lower inflation figure of 10.7 percent.

If, as last time, the union uses an e-ballot what information will members be given on the proposal? An e-ballot is a method that gives undue weight to more passive members and to those who may have already broken the strike. 

Will the vote by the members’ meeting on Thursday be circulated before the e-ballot—or, as it was last time, 18 hours after the e-ballot had started? If bosses come forward with a new offer in the coming days, would that be voted on by members already back at work?

It is time to push on to a win—not break the momentum of the strike we have fought so hard to build.

To support the crowdfunder for the strike go to bit.ly/StMfund

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