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27 October 2014

St Mungo's Broadway workers discuss next action

Paul Kershaw and Arti Dillon, Unite LE1111 branch

St Mungo's Broadway strikers finished seven days of action on Thursday feeling more determined and more confident than ever.

New reps as well as long-standing union members were key to the action's success. The strikers were articulate about providing good services, the need to challenge management's proposals and they demanded real consultation.

During the strike the chief executive continued his eccentric picket line visits. During one visit he was challenged about the fact that HR advisors' pay has been increased while at the same time frontline workers' pay is to be cut. He confirmed his priorities when he explained: "I have to pay for quality".

However, one picket commented about the attacks and threats: "The things you fear when this happens to you; that fear has gone".

A Unite members' meeting will be held to plan future steps in the dispute.
The meetings of members and reps, the emailing and developing social media presence (Twitter @smbunite and branch facebook group), are creating strong communications between the members.

The 650 St Mungo's Broadway Unite members are part of the wider Unite housing branch LE1111, which includes Peabody, Equinox, One Housing and HCA.
It is a large multi-shop union branch that is not just aiming to help organise responsive campaigns but also to express the challenges that austerity for the 99% is imposing on all areas and argue that campaigns for sustained industrial action linked with a political campaign can make a difference.

The strike has been solid with a high level of involvement; hundreds have attended rallies, 19 pickets were organised (and more sprung up) and there were two local authority protests each day.

On Friday the Guardian carried an article by a striker explaining that the action was in defence of services to homeless people. It compared the new senior management's attitude to Basil Fawlty's. Austerity policies are causing a rise in homelessness and insecurity so these services are vital and for many are both life changing and life saving.

Like many charities and not-for-profit organisations St Mungo's Broadway relies on local authority contracts so it is significant that the targeted local authority protests have begun to put pressure on management as a provider.

Most of these authorities are Labour; the fact that the strikers have to publicly lobby them shows the gap between the Labour Party and activists in the trade union movement. But it has also shown that some councils and councillors can be moved to put pressure on the St Mungo's Broadway bosses as a result of the mass involvement and pressure.

Hackney council is "re-evaluating" its relationship with the charity and Islington has written to the management specifically calling on it to honour the terms of the union recognition agreement and asking what plans are in place to cut senior management salaries!

Jeremy Corbyn MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in parliament calling on the management to resolve the dispute.

Unite has committed that it will be mobilising support through its political department, local councils and its MPs' network. The industrial campaigns do need a political link as we are directly responding to the growing marketisation of the sector.

The LE1111 branch has initiated a campaign for sector standards to challenge and change piecemeal, insecure jobs and services in the sector.

Please donate to the campaign as follows:

Mark all donations 'St Mungos Broadway Campaign Funds'. Please also pass on this appeal to your own contacts.

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This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 27 October 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.