In the second of our series of first-hand accounts from Unite members at St Mungo’s on why they’re voting for strike action, we meet a member* who says that “sensible people know that you don’t make recruitment easier by cutting wages.”
This strike is about similar issues to the strike in 2014. The success of that strike has protected terms and conditions since then and we need to stand together now so that they remain protected.
A project worker post should be the entry level position in an organisation like St Mungo’s. But there is a loophole that allows a small number of workers to be employed who are less well-paid than the normal project worker rates.
The agreement between St Mungo’s and Unite allows these ‘junior’ low-paid workers to be employed in a ratio of 1 lower-paid worker to 4 fully-paid project workers. Senior management have sought to change this in two ways – firstly, they have pretended that the word ‘ratio’ really means ‘proportion’ so it is one low-paid worker for every three fully-paid workers, instead of one to four. If you did maths at school – and perhaps if you didn’t – you will know that ‘ratio’ and ‘proportion’ are not the same. This is a blatant con.
On top of that, management have said that this wilful misinterpretation does not go far enough, and they want to change the ratio to one to two. This takes us into a dangerous situation where a large proportion of workers are not getting the rate for the job. They are not trainees, receiving a lower rate of pay while they become fully qualified. These are indefinite, low paid posts.
Management have said that they could not recruit enough people at the higher wage rates, so they hope to make recruitment easier by paying less. Yes, they said that.
We are dealing with managers who have never seen a pay cut they didn’t like – as long as the people affected are already low-paid, of course.
If this is allowed to happen this time, they will try again and reduce pay, as they tried to do five years ago, until everyone who does the direct client-facing work of St Mungo’s is on poverty level wages.
St Mungo’s will become a place where you work if you cannot find work elsewhere, and remain until you’ve found somewhere else. With a demoralised, deskilled staff staying in their jobs only until they can find a job elsewhere, the quality of the service we provide to clients will evaporate.
Sensible people know that you don’t make recruitment easier by cutting wages. If you need to recruit people who do not already have the skills then you can train them in the job. You get a return on that investment by valuing the skills those workers have developed and encouraging them to remain in their jobs as they gain more experience, rather than finding trivial or outright bogus reasons to instigate an unfair disciplinary process.
St Mungo’s is not a poor organisation. As a charity, it does not need to insist that every single tender returns a profit. The resources of the charity are there to provide a service at a higher level than the dregs of our industry, and that includes recruiting, training and retaining dedicated staff and paying them a proper wage.
When we win this strike, we can stop the race to the bottom and St Mungo’s can continue to be a worthwhile place to work and provide a decent service to our clients. If we stick together, we will win as we did before.
I will be voting yes for strike action.
* Identity anonymous to protect the member