Workers in homeless hostels set to strike over pay

Charity workers plot seven-day walkout over new boss' plans for lower salaries

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More than 650 care workers who look after vulnerable homeless people and drug addicts are preparing to walk out on a seven-day strike today over a “race to the bottom” on pay and conditions.

Members of the union Unite who work in homeless hostels run by St Mungo’s Broadway will stage the week-long strike to fight against lower salaries and new personnel policies imposed by the charity’s new chief executive.

The move, which could leave at-risk clients without sufficient care and support, has been deemed necessary by staff who fear changes to pay and conditions will lead to poor quality care being provided for homeless people.

Nicky Marcus, the regional officer for Unite, said: “Clearly it will impact on vulnerable people. Our members are acutely concerned about that and didn’t take this lightly. They’re doing this because they firmly believe that this cheap model of downgrading terms and conditions is far more dangerous in the long run.”

She added: “They will end up with poorly experienced, high turnover staff. We have got highly experienced staff leaving. If you’re going to replace them with staff on £20,000 what kind of people are you going to get?”

The charity and union were locked in bitter talks at the conciliation service Acas tonight.

The dispute follows the merger of St Mungo’s and Broadway, a much smaller charity, this April. As part of the deal, long-standing St Mungo’s chief executive Charles Fraser stood down, allowing Broadway’s chief executive Howard Sinclair to take the top job.

Unite claims plans to peg staff salaries to average rates will mean frontline workers will earn less while Mr Sinclair will be able to award himself annual pay rises.

Mr Sinclair said the charity had not breached its existing agreement with staff. “We are making no redundancies and not cutting salaries or terms and conditions for existing staff,” he said. “We deeply regret that Unite has taken this step. We are working very hard to ensure that all our services for homeless people continue to run as normal for the duration of the strike.”