Branch Secretary : suz.muna.unite@gmail.com
  

St Mungos worker: Why I am Striking

St Mungos workers put vulnerable service users first

 

St Mungo’s CEO Howard Sinclair taken to the Daily Telegraph to denigrate their staff and Unite, no doubt hoping to disguise their dubious ethical record.  But front-line staff put the interests of homeless people first every day – even when management makes that increasingly difficult.  As this St Mungo’s worker makes clear in a passionate appeal, the dispute is about stopping a run down of the quality of the service.  

 

Through Unite, staff repeatedly warned that managements cooperation with the Home Office was both ethically wrong and damaging to the organisation. The branch received support for the campaign from professionals across the homlessness sector - but management remained oblivious.  Workers in St Mungo's are determined to protect vital services from an irresponsible management.

 

Told that colleagues were fabricating lies

 

I'm going on strike because I am a child of migrants. For nearly a year, when the story frst broke about St Mungo's passing on personal information about migrants, we were told by many that the Guardian was out to destroy our reputation and our colleagues in the union were fabricating awful lies.

 

St Mungo's Chief Executive Howard Sinclair

 

So concerned was the organisation with managing its reputation, over and above what harm it may have perpetrated against some of the most vulnerable people in society, that experienced and senior colleagues were willing to parrot this line again and again for nearly a year without seriously questioning whether, perhaps, those expressing concerns were doing so out genuine care and love for our clients, not spite.

 

Had been sharing information with Home Office

 

When the news came out about the results of the internal review (which said that yes, indeed, we had been sharing information with the Home Office without client consent) I distinctly remember the gutting feeling of disappointment, shame, guilt and a feeling of having been manipulated. While I cannot speak for everyone, I know for a fact many staff who are also BAME felt shocked and genuinely horrified.

 

Not telling wider organisation

 

Since the review you'd be hard pressed to know that such a huge mistake was made as it is only ever mentioned using euphemisms of "we learn from our mistakes" without telling the wider organisation what those mistakes are and how it happened. Unless you are already so engaged that you read the report or managed to read the one email sent out about it, this huge event, that many of us feel on a very deep level, has all but disappeared.

 

 

It is hard, indeed, nearly impossible to believe that a leadership team that was willing and able to be so careless with the lives of migrants is being honest about other things; specifcally the junior staffng cap. It makes you wonder that if the changes they're seeking are so small and will only be used in a tiny number of services as they have said, why is it worth ignoring the strength of opinion of 250 staff willing to give up their pay and make the diffcult decision to strike for this?

 

Changes will lead to more back door cuts

 

Either the changes are not so small after all and, as the precedent in our sector goes, these changes will lead to more backdoor cuts to service roles. Or the leadership are so stubborn and feel the need to win the dispute by any means necessary that they are willing to plough on and force our hand over changes they keep telling us are in fact insigni?cant but in reality have never felt so to many of us.

 

Remember, this isn't one small, insignifcant funding cut. It's the latest in a line of austerity measures that have depleted our services for over a decade. The leadership rejected the Unite's Night Project Worker proposal because it would be 'unfair'. But remember, there used to be a time where most Night Workers were Night Project Workers. Leadership have said they need more entry level roles to boost recruitment but there used to be a time where Project Worker was an entry level role.

 

Brave enough to say stop

 

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks "you know what would be great, if I didn’t go to work today, lost all my pay, leave my clients without my support and butt heads with leadership". But sometimes making diffcult decisions is necessary.

 

Government cuts have gutted our sector and pushed our clients to the brink. People are dying on the streets. At some point we have to be brave enough to say stop. Enough is enough. We cannot keep cutting and cutting and hoping that despite that our clients will stop dying. At some point we have to take the cogs out of the machine. I hope you will join us in that.

 

If you don’t work for St Mungos, please consider donating to the strike appeal.

 

Read about St Mungo's victimisation of a female worker who raised questions about equal pay here.

 

By A St Mungo’s Worker

 

March 10th 2020

 

Comments :

Solidarity from Socialist Party members in the South and South East here to build support your struggle throughout the trade unions and anti austerity movement, to defend your jobs and working conditions and secure affordable council housing for all. Please contact me with any material you have we can circulate through the movement.


By Nick Chaffey on 2020-03-11 14:13:55

There is a huge gap between central services and direct services. Treatment of staff has been discribed as Modern Slavery. There is a culture of fear and intimidation. We have been intimidayed because we want our voices to be heard


By Michelle on 2020-03-17 19:42:47

An excellent argument and article. As a retired social worker, housing worker and policy manager I have had long opportunity to observe good and bad practice in organisations claiming to assist homeless people. One common observation is that as soon as people become homeless, many organisations (governments, some social workers and housing workers, and of course voluntary agencies) find it legitimate to start lying about them, though many of course do not. Over decades I have had a good regard for St Mungos, but it is clear they have fallen into the same old pattern. As you say, it is time to say stop. It never feels like the right time, of course, but sadly it is. Well done.


By Graham Park on 2020-03-18 10:56:13

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