Unite union members rally outside St Mungo’s headquarters at Thomas More Square in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

St Mungo’s strikers were boosted by support from people who use the homelessness charity on Thursday.

On the picket line outside a hostel in Hackney in east London, the Unite union members were joined by passing service users who live inside. One said to a striker, “I know how hard you all work.

“If you don’t get paid or there isn’t the right infrastructure you can’t do your jobs properly. It’s not you we’re angry at—we know how things work.”

St Mungo’s workers are on their tenth week of strikes—and sixth of indefinite action.  Some 500 Unite members walked out for four weeks on Tuesday 30 May to demand a 10 percent pay increase. Now union membership is up to around 800, and the strikers have escalated to indefinite action until management caves.

The latest offer from bosses, backdated only to April 2022 rather than April 2021, was 3 percent. St Mungo’s strikers are reballoting from next Wednesday while keeping up their action. They have continued picketing outside trustees’ officers, as well agencies which have provided scab labour. At least two have now agreed to stop providing scabs to St Mungo’s.

On Thursday the strikers went to the offices of St Mungo’s corporate donors. And a well-attended rally outside St Mungo’s head office in east London on Tuesday marked the ten weeks. Strikers chanted, “What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it? Last year,” and, “St Mungo’s hear us say, pay your workers fair pay.”

On the picket line at the hostel in Hackney, striker Alice told Socialist Worker, “As a team we’ve stayed strong together. It’s been hard financially but picketing everyday has helped. We’ve all supportive of one another.”

Alice says the rallies, protests and strike socials have also helped to bolster morale. “Management has shown a complete lack of respect for us,” she said. “They don’t show us any appreciation—and that’s partly what this strike is about.

“If they keep running things like this there won’t be any projects left, more will close down. The corporatisation of charities means we’re being shifted closer to being a business, not something that helps homeless people.”

Alice said that the 10 percent pay rise is crucial with the cost of living spiralling. “My rent has gone up by 20 percent,” she said. “All I want is to be able to afford my bills.

“We can’t give our best service to clients if we’re worrying about paying the rent and becoming homeless ourselves. Or if I’m worried about how I’m going to afford food, how can I be of any use to the people I’m trying to support?

Fred was also on strike in 2014. He told Socialist Worker, “CEO Emma Haddad is digging her heels in. With her background, coming from the Home Office, she doesn’t care about homeless people or understand what a charity like this needs.

“I thought we’d be on strike for two or maybe three weeks. I’m striking because I fully support our cause.”

Fred added, “Being on strike means younger people getting involved in activity, and together we’re having more conversations about the world and society.”

Alice said, “Money doesn’t go to things like leaks in the ceilings or showers that don’t work. It goes to the head office and the new management structure. We’re fighting for the future of the service. We have to keep going. I do think the strike has brought people closer together.”

The St Mungo’s strikers must stay resolute as they prepare to re-ballot. And continue to ramp up the pressure on Unite and their reps to deliver an offer worth nothing less than the pay rise they’re fighting for.

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