By Two St Mungo’s workers
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St Mungo’s strikers battle new proposal from Unite union officials

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St Mungo’s workers are on their 8th week of strikes—and 4th week of indefinite action
Issue 2865
A crowd shot of strikers outside St Mungo’s agency labour supplier Corus

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.

St Mungo’s strikers stage solidarity day in Camden 
A crowd shot of St Mungo's and UCL security guards in the UCL quad

St Mungo’s strikers and UCL strikers unite (Picture: Socialist Worker)

St Mungo’s strikers took part in a “solidarity day” in Camden, north London, on Thursday—marching between various pickets in the north London borough. They ended at St Pancras Square in central London where trustee Rob Bradshaw’s office is based.

While marching past the UCL university campus in central London, the strikers passed a striking security guards’ rally. The outsourced IWGB union members are battling fire and rehire. 

The two groups of strikers shared speeches outside the university with a sound speaker blasting music. They then marched between St Mungo’s pickets and UCL buildings, before marching down to St Pancras Square for another rally with buses and cars cheering and beeping.

The spontaneous unity boosted the St Mungo’s and UCL strikers. Zak, a Unite union member at St Mungo’s, said, “We’re here outside Camden council right now but today it’s about Rob Bradshaw, whose office is next door He’s one of the St Mungo’s trustees who we believe could make a decision to end this dispute.

“He could be putting pressure on CEO Emma Haddad to pay us properly. Or does he think his frontline service workers don’t deserve more than poverty pay? Hopefully he’ll come out to speak to us and put pressure on St Mungo’s.” 

Someone told the strikers that Bradshaw wasn’t in the office. “We often get that response when we turn up to trustees’ offices,” Zak replied. “We’ll stay here until he calls or emails to say he’ll do what we’re asking.”

Between each picket, St Mungo’s discussed an upcoming members’ meeting planned for later in the evening (see above). 

On Tuesday, St Mungo’s strikers also organised a solidarity day in Lewisham, south London, ending at Gates tone agency. Another And a solidarity day on Wednesday ended at Hammersmith Town Hall in west London.

On Friday, strikers planned to rally at Tower Hamlets Town Hall in east London and march to the workplace of trustee Joanna Killian.

Comfort Care is one of two agencies that have pulled their workforce from St Mungo’s, with strikers also holding a rally there on Tuesday. “Comfort Care has agreed to all our demands”, strikers announced.

“It said it was appalled to hear that some of its agency workers were covering striking workers. It has agreed to write to St Mungo’s about this and pull any workers that are there. It’s asked us to keep an eye out for any of its workers being re-deployed into such roles and will pull them if so. A big victory—our pressure has worked.”

Rep Gareth said, “We’ve been on strike for eight weeks over disgustingly low pay. Over the last decade workers at St Mungo’s have seen their pay fall between 25-30 percent while senior executive salaries have risen and risen.

“In the last ten years they’ve risen by 77 percent—the last reported figure for Haddad was £189,000.”

He added, “Bradshaw’s role is to overlook the charity and make sure it’s providing the services it should and treating its workers right. What have the trustees done throughout this dispute? Where have they been?”

“Silent,” the strikers shouted back. Gareth added, “Bradshaw has a history of working with KPMG, PWC and other large consultancies and financial organisations. So have a lot of our other trustees. They think that good PR comes with being on the board of a charity.

“But then they should help our strike—they should be helping to bring St Mungo’s back to the negotiation table. Today we’re supporting striking guards at UCL. It’s through coming together and supporting one another we will change things and win our struggles.”

Isabel Ringrose

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