Around 450 workers at housing charity Shelter struck on Wednesday of last week and Monday of this week – in the first strikes in the 41 years of the organisation’s existence.
The workers, members of the Unite union, are striking against a management plan that would mean downgrading many posts, the removal of incremental pay rises, and longer hours for no extra pay.
The attacks could mean cuts of up to £5,700 a year for some workers.
Around 20 workers picketed Shelter’s London head office on the first strike day. One of the pickets, Tony, told Socialist Worker, “We are extremely concerned at how management’s plans will affect advice services.
“We currently have a very dedicated workforce with years of experience in advice work. Management are threatening to destroy that by imposing this new structure.”
He said, “The shift to dependency on bidding for contracts means that we lost have our campaigning edge. For example, in my view Shelter hasn’t been prominent enough in opposing attacks on legal aid.”
Workers from other voluntary sector housing organisations joined the picket line. Sam, a Unite member at the Passage day centre in south London, said that he has been working in the homelessness sector for more than 10 years.
He told Socialist Worker, “We feel the same attacks throughout the sector, but this is the first time workers have taken strike action. That is why it’s so important that others working in the field turn out to support Shelter workers.”
In Glasgow strikers and service users held a mass meeting on the first strike day. One of the Unite stewards said, “Adam Sampson, the head of Shelter, wants to adopt a business model of working to compete with private companies.
“This will remove Shelter’s ability to campaign for change and will take away its independent voice.
“Downgrading of workers’ wages is bad for everybody in the voluntary and public sector.”
Another Glasgow striker told Socialist Worker that the loss of pay will mean she has to sell her home.
She said, “It is ironic that I work for an organisation that helps people who are homeless and I am now in this situation myself.
“I am a single parent, but management have taken no consideration of this. I have been told that I could work extra hours to make up the money but this would have an impact on my childcare responsibilities.
“We work for Shelter because we care about people. We love our jobs but the bosses don’t care any more.”
Strikers are set to meet this week to discuss further action.