Housing charity workers strike for a week to defend their services

Unite members at the housing charity St Mungo’s Broadway will be taking seven full days of strike action beginning at 8am Friday morning. Unite Convenor Adam Lambert explains why.

St Mungo's workers protest in defence of their services Photo: Unite

St Mungo’s workers protest in defence of their services. Photo: Unite

We are taking action due to attacks on terms on conditions that have been imposed by new management. This is possibly set to be the biggest strike we’ve seen in the housing sector for a long time.

St Mungo’s, a homeless and housing charity mainly based in London, has been seen as a quality service provider. As workers, we’ve had decent terms and conditions: St Mungo’s has one of the highest densities of union membership in the housing sector and we’ve managed to resist previous attempts to undermine them.

St Mungo’s recently merged with a smaller, failing company – Broadway. The management from Broadway now run the charity. They are attempting to turn it into a completely corporate organisation and are trying to undercut other providers. The new management have imposed much worse terms and conditions on new starters, but we know in the long term they’ll attempt to impose them on everyone else.

Adam Lambert Photo: Unite

Adam Lambert Photo: Unite

In response to these attacks we immediately called a union meeting and agreed to ballot for strike. 96% voted yes to strike on a good turnout of 68%. We knew that if we went out for just one or two days management would just be able to ride it out. We knew we needed to go out for longer. At a meeting of 130 members I proposed five days of strike, although I was worried that people might not want to go out for so long. It turns out that people thought five days was too short a time to be out for! The meeting unanimously voted to take seven full days of action.

We’ll be picketing each morning during the strike at St Mungo’s offices (details here) and we’d really welcome people coming down to support us. In the afternoons we’ll be protesting at the company’s HQ in Hammersmith and at eight different local authorities. Unite Housing branch members will be also be joining the TUC ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ demonstration on Saturday and collecting for our hardship fund. You can also help support the strike by raising a motion of support in your union branch and donating to the strike fund (details here).

Housing is increasingly becoming an important battleground. It is an area where the greed in society is clear to see with private companies and housing associations raking in huge amounts of money, while thousands of people suffer from high rents and poor quality housing. There is a lot to be done to link the trade union struggles with community based campaigns around housing, like that of the Focus E15 Mothers on the Carpenters Estate in east London. Hopefully our strike will begin to develop some of these links.

 

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