Workers at a homeless hostel in Hertfordshire were set to strike for 12 days over Christmas to win terms and conditions they say they were promised. St Mungo’s took over the small, independent North Herts Sanctuary in Hitchins two years ago.
There have been U-turns over workers’ new conditions ever since. They don’t have the pay, pensions or shift patterns they were told to expect. But sick pay fuelled the most anger. Ill workers have been repeatedly denied the right to paid leave, which bosses say is discretionary.
One member of staff told Socialist Worker, “People have been putting themselves through hell just to get paid. There’s someone walking around like a pensioner because of sciatica and without time off it won’t heal.”
One worker has been unable to get surgery for a serious complaint after he was twice denied time off. “His doctor fast tracked him for a cancer investigation,” said a worker.
“That was very invasive, but he had to go back to work early because he couldn’t get sick pay. He’s the only earner in their family—his partner stays at home to care for a disabled child.”
By January it turned out it wasn’t cancer, but he needed surgery to remove his gallbladder. Twice this year the worker was offered hospital dates and forced to cancel them after being refused sick pay.
The six workers have already struck for a week and are set to walk out again on Sunday 22 December until Friday 3 January. They are members of the Unite union.
Hundreds of people showed support for the strike. Unite convenor Adam Lambert said, “St Mungo was the patron saint of the bullied—shame on St Mungo’s senior management for allowing this situation.”
A worker said, “We’ve had about £1,000 in solidarity donations from other union branches. More than 350 signatures from local people, and quite positive support from the homeless people who use the service.
“We didn’t want to go on strike but management just won’t listen.”
Write to MP Peter Lilley at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to local councillor Judi Billing at email@example.com and to Charles Fraser, St Mungo’s Chief Executive at firstname.lastname@example.org
Send messages of support to email@example.com
Donate to the strike fund, Unite Housing Workers branch 1111, Sort code—08-60-01, Account no—20040639