By Isabel Ringrose
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St Mungo’s strikers pile pressure onto bosses

The Unite union members are on indefinite strike over pay
Issue 2860
St Mungo’s strikers on the picket line standing in front of a brick wall with raised power fists and red unite the union flags

St Mungo’s strikers were in high spirits at the Guildford Street picket line

St Mungo’s strikers held a vibrant rally outside the offices of top law firm Linklaters on Thursday in the City of London.

The Unite union members targeted Linklaters to put pressure on St Mungo’s board member Alexandra Beidas, who is Global Head of Employment and Incentives at the firm. The strikers are targeting trustees to grow awareness and help resolve the dispute.

It follows strikers’ decision to escalate their four-week strike, which began on 30 May, to all-out indefinite action by some 71 percent. Reps then invited bosses for a meeting earlier this week, but bosses offered nothing of value.

Gavin is an outreach worker in London. “We do this work for a reason—we care about people,” he told Socialist Worker.

“If the way things carry on like now, people such as CEO Emma Haddad will make sure this charity will no longer be charitable. I thought, it’s time to down tools and stand up for myself, and my colleagues.” 

Gavin said that the strike in the long term “impacts positively on our clients who are our main concern.” “All of us had a crisis of conscience during this dispute,” he said. “We have to remind ourselves when we feel guilty that this is not our creation, or the collateral damage caused to our clients. 

“You’ve got to look at this from the poorest workers’ standpoint. It’s horrendous that people are expected to manage on their wages in a city like London when Haddad is getting ten times those salaries.”

Gavin said that being on strike has meant meeting colleagues he would otherwise have only communicated with on email or phone. “It means you actually connect on a human level. We’re going to come through this stronger than ever,” he said. 

Workers have organised the rallies this week, including two outside St Mungo’s headquarters in east London. One of these was anti-racism themed. 

Outside Linklaters strikers played music and made noise with whistles and horns. They chanted, “No ifs, no buts. No homeless sector cuts,” and, “What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it? Last year.”

Linklaters responded by calling the City of London police. Some of the strikers joined a rally by junior doctors at nearby Homerton hospital in east London. 

On one picket line in Endell Street in central London, senior management had been trying to undermine the picket lines. Strikers responded by turning up in numbers to defend the picket.

Striker Jack, based at the Harrow Road picket in west London, said at the rally, “We’ve been persistent with trying to stop people going into work.”

Since the strike began, Unite membership at St Mungo’s has risen from 500 to around 800. That means, as part of an agreement, strikers can demand more reps. They currently are allowed 20.

St Mungo’s strikers are fighting for a 10 percent pay rise for 2021/22, but some want to go further. 

“We’ve got to fight way beyond 10 percent,” Gavin thinks. “This would set a precedent to other charities across the country and to our bosses that we’re not going to put up with this nonsense.

“And 10 percent is still a percent and a half off inflation. We’ve done the soft route for years and it’s not done anything—it’s come to this.”

Strikers say St Mungo’s has become even more corporate since its merger with Broadway housing association at the end of 2013. Gavin fears the shift towards corporatisation could mean bosses do away with frontline services altogether.

He slammed the bosses as “parasitic”. “We need to get to a place that’s more democratic, where workers pick who is leading the charity or workplace,” he said. “Or even better we lead it ourselves. We’ll keep chipping away—everyday is progress. 

“I’m fully committed to the fight. It’s about making a statement. The camaraderie we share is no match for the cold, calculated CEO and her cronies. It can be draining at times, but we’ll keep our energy and motivation up.”

Gavin is a pseudonym

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