Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1078/30445
The Socialist 18 March 2020 |
Join the Socialist
| Audio | PDF | ebook
Determined St Mungo's homelessness workers strike for three days
St Mungo's workers on strike - at a safe distance, photo by Paul Kershaw (Click to enlarge)
Paul Kershaw, Unite union housing workers' branch
Last minute emails to staff calling on them to suspend strike action because of the coronavirus crisis provoked anger. Of course, workers are concerned about the crisis and the lack of a strategy from management for dealing with it, but they are not impressed with the attempt to weaponise the issue.
Senior managers were deployed to watch picket lines, and workers have been threatened about the consequences for them if they strike. Would it not have been better to concentrate on working with the union to ensure safety? Staff complain about a lack of basics, such as sanitisers and washing facilities, well within management's control, as well as inability to get coronavirus tests for themselves and homeless clients.
Workers are striking because of their boss's decision to go back on an agreement limiting the number of lower-paid (and less well-trained) staff on duty in projects, as well as in opposition to a draconian approach to staff sickness and disciplinaries.
St Mungo's management spent huge sums of the charity's money on legal challenges and a questionable PR firm with which they discussed "eroding" the union. Strikers were pleased to welcome leading councillors from local authorities with big St Mungo's contracts to speak at strike meetings. They expressed support for the strikers and shock at management's brutal tactics.
Unite the Union housing workers' branch works with a number of user groups, and strikers had support from 'Streets Kitchen', a campaign group offering solidarity and practical support for rough sleepers.
Along with Unite housing workers, they are campaigning for proper access to health facilities and shelter for all rough sleepers, including those with no access to public funds.
They call for full funding for the Mildmay hospital which needs an extra £5 million to run at full capacity for a year using its brand new facilities, and use of empty hotel and office space.