Hitchin strike will hit vulnerable

North Herts Sanctuary

North Herts Sanctuary - Credit: Archant

A strike over Christmas which will affect vulnerable people has been described as a “sad situation”.

Staff at St Mungo’s, a national homeless charity which runs a hostel in Nightingale Road, Hitchin, will walk out from 3pm on Sunday until 3pm on Friday, January 3, as a dispute continues over the pay and conditions of five project workers. It follows a week-long strike earlier this month.

Union Unite believe the management has reneged on an agreement to offer the project workers the same employment terms as the rest of the workforce, forcing the staff at the 17-bed hostel to hold a 12-day strike.

The facility provides temporary accommodation, as well as day services to help address the social and health needs of people using the service.

Unite regional officer Nicky Marcus said: “This is a really sad situation. Our members want to provide a comprehensive service for the homeless of North Hertfordshire over the festive period, some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“But the management of St Mungo’s refuses to recognise the need to align the pay and conditions of the project workers with the rest of the charity’s workforce, as was previously promised. The total cost of this exercise would be just £5,000 a year.

“Unite would like to settle this dispute in time for Christmas and our door is open for talks, but there has to be movement from the management.

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“Our members in Hitchin are receiving less pay and working more hours than other staff doing the same jobs in St Mungo’s. They are being refused any sick pay whatsoever. This injustice needs to be remedied.”

Elizabeth Harper, St Mungo’s regional director, is overseeing an extension of the hostel’s services to a 24-hour operation.

She said: “Five workers who were transferred from another smaller charity to St Mungo’s plan to strike over the holiday period, at what is a difficult time for residents anyway. We have protected the pay and employment terms of these staff and have offered them a fair process to transfer onto our own pay and terms, which includes a generous sick pay package. This is not about the additional costs, which St Mungo’s would be willing to cover, but about a fair and consistent treatment for all our staff.

“Our first priority, as ever, will be ensuring that anyone using the hostel receives the best support we can offer, especially during the cold winter period.”

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