Branch Secretary :

St Mungos: Disciplinary action for calling out bullying



St Mungo's "independent review" fails to address culture of fear at the charity 


Unite are responding to the 2 independent reports commissioned by St Mungo’s following the strike in their Property Services department which saw a Unite member (who is also a rep) suspended for gross misconduct as a result of him raising a grievance against 2 Senior Managers for bullying.  The member remains suspended and following the publication of the reports St Mungo’s have decided to proceed with disciplinary action against him and faces summarily dismissal.  At the time of suspension 44% of Unite representatives within St Mungo’s were involved in formal processes about their own employment.


Key allegations of bullying by senior managers


The scope of the report was limited to the procedural elements of the cases of bullying and the avoidance of dispute procedure.  We were disappointed that it wasn’t tasked to looking into the key allegations of bullying by Senior Management or the culture of fear that exists within St Mungo’s where staff are frightened of raising legitimate concerns of bullying or malpractice without recrimination. 


St Mungo’s have stated that they will accept all the recommendations contained within the reports however we note there is one recommendation that they have appear to have overlooked. 


Result of grievance


Referring specifically to the suspension of our member and the invoking of the disciplinary procedure against him as an outcome of his grievance the report states “Whilst there is nothing procedurally incorrect in including this in a grievance letter, I would not recommend it”.  Despite clearly stating that initiating disciplinary action directly from the grievance is not recommended St Mungo’s have ignored this and are continuing with action against our member.


If they are going to accept all recommendations this should also be accepted and disciplinary action against the member should be stopped immediately.  St Mungo’s are refusing to do this.


Also of note is that the report concludes that “managers regularly checking with the HR team and legal advisors where necessary to ensure that they followed procedures correctly”  however although they may have followed the grievance and disciplinary procedures they did breach the Unite recognition agreement which states that “In the event of disciplinary action being taken against a Unite convenor or representative the full-time Unite officer will be notified prior to action” something they failed to do as the Unite Regional Officer was not contacted by St Mungo’s until after our member and rep had been suspended.


Breached recognition agreement


This is not the first time St Mungo’s have breached the terms of our recognition agreement with them. 


In terms of the Avoidance of Dispute report there is nothing to disagree with in terms of the recommendations but more detail needs to be added before they can be fully accepted.


For example, the report encourages the use of informal conversations at the early stages of any disagreement.  Unite have tried to engage informally before and have been ignored and referred back to formal processes.  We welcome being able to have informal conversations and we hope management will now be more willing to engage in these with Unite. 


Re-set relationship


Similarly, the report recommends that St Mungo’s “define more clearly when the use of the avoidance of dispute procedure is appropriate” It should be remembered that Unite tried to invoke the Avoidance of Dispute process on the Property Services issue but again management refused to engage and vetoed the use of the procedure which led to the strike and current campaign against St Mungo’s.  Management needs to start listening and trying to engage with Unite if they want to re-set the relationship and avoid unnecessary action going forward.


The recommendation in relation to Safe Spaces is also important but as long as St Mungo’s continue to start or threaten disciplinary action against employees raising concerns or grievances no-one will feel safe. The culture of taking or threatening action against individuals raising legitimate concerns needs to stop if St Mungo’s wants to be a safe environment for its employees to work in as well as for its clients.


Threats of sanctions


Unite has always been willing to work constructively with St Mungo’s to ensure the valuable service they provide to Homeless people is carried out safely and by staff who can work without fear of raising concerns. These reports will be worthless unless St Mungo’s stop treating Unite as the enemy within and start engaging with us constructively to address the issues that have led us to where we are.


These reports do nothing to address the fundamental issue that there is a culture within St Mungo’s where managers silence employees with threats of sanctions against them, this is unacceptable.


Therefore, until this issue is addressed our campaign demanding a freedom to speak up, a full investigation into the levels of bullying within the organisation, the end to threats of disciplinary if raising legitimate concerns, and a review of governance so that the recognised unions voices are heard if not by management, then by the Trustees, who in this dispute have abdicated any responsibility for the allegations raised, will continue.


Summary of recent events and timeline here.


Unite media statement:


Unite, Britain's leading union, says St Mungo's staff still complain of a culture of fear and bullying which the homeless charity must honestly address and resolve.


Following a long running strike at St Mungo's in its property services department earlier this year, due to allegations of management bullying, the Charity agreed to an independent review to attempt to resolve the root causes of the industrial action.


Staff continue to complain of a culture of fear


However, staff continue to complain of a culture of fear and one member of staff, who is a union representative remains suspended and faces dismissal after he raised a grievance against a manager.  At the time of the suspension 44 per cent of Unite representatives within St Mungo’s were involved in formal processes about their own employment. Unite believes the review has failed to sufficiently address these outstanding issues. 


Does not address fundamental issue


In response to the independent review, Unite regional officer, Steve O'Donnell said: "The review does not address the fundamental issue that there is a culture within St Mungo’s where managers silence employees with threats of sanctions against them, this is unacceptable. 


Valuable service


"Unite has always been willing to work constructively with St Mungo’s to ensure the valuable service they provide to homeless people is carried out safely. However, it is vital that staff feel able to call out poor practices and to question senior managers without fear of retribution. Until the root causes are addressed the Charity will not be able to draw a line underneath this troubled period."


Unite continues to call on St Mungo's to:

  • agree to a full investigation into the levels of bullying within the organisation.
  • put an end to threats of disciplinary action against staff for raising legitimate concerns,
  • and to review the charity's governance procedures so that the recognised unions can engage effectively with management and the trustees.



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