Branch Secretary :

St Mungos Strike - Hitchin Project

Unite members at St Mungo's North Herts Sanctuary homeless shelter in Hitchin are on strike after charity bosses have refused to honour an agreement made in July to give them the same terms and conditions as other employees within the organisation.

When St Mungo's took the service over in December 2011, they decided to make what had always been a night shelter open for 24 hours, seven days a week. Because our members care deeply about the well-being of the vulnerable adults they support, they agreed that this was a laudable aim. The problem was that St Mungo's sought to do so without increasing the budget, instead attempting to re-name and de-skill the roles of the staff and cut their pay in the process.

Unite had lengthy negotiations with St Mungo's and we agreed a reasonable way forward whereby no one would be demoted but where changes to work patterns were agreed. Also agreed at the time was that our members would be assimilated onto St Mungo's terms and conditions. Yet at the last minute, as 24 hour opening was introduced, management reneged on their side of the bargain, denying an agreement was made, despite the existence of e-mails and budgets used in the negotiations which say otherwise.

Our members have changed their lives to allow a night shelter to open 24 hours. They work the same jobs and carry out the same duties as other St Mungo's employees, but work more hours and for less pay; certain staff members are receiving up to £1,700 a year less than staff carrying out the same work elsewhere in the organisation. All are being kept on salaries divorced from the collectively bargained, national pay scales and annual incremental pay rises enjoyed elsewhere in the organisation. They are entitled only to "discretionary" sick pay, which since they raised a dispute, has been used to refuse any sick pay whatsoever, including to an employee undergoing cancer investigations. One employee has had to postpone an important operation to remove his gallbladder until he can afford to have unpaid time off to have the surgery and recover from this.

They are just six workers in a large and ever-expanding organisation. Doing the right thing and standing by their agreement would cost management less than £5k a year, and they have admitted "this isn't about the money": it couldn't be in a charity making surpluses of £millions each year and paying its CEO £108k p.a. Instead, it is about a belligerent union-busting approach from management which uses the tactic of creating agreements to avert generalised resistance and breaking them where they believe they can get away with it.

St Mungo's Hitchin workers are taking strike action as the only way of making their voices heard. They have already struck for seven days at the start of December. Please support them in every way you can:

  • Send messages of solidarity to
  • Donate to the strike fund:
    • Account name "Unite Housing Workers branch 1111" S/c 08-60-01 Account no. 20040639
    • Cheques should be marked "Hitchin strike" on the back and sent c/o Nicky Marcus, Regional Industrial Officer, Unite CLDO, 33-37 Moreland Street, London EC1V 8HA

The dispute has recieved extensive media coverage. See previous reports for a selection and click read more here for latest local paper report.

Follow the link for details of pickets:



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