Shelter workers strike
Monday March 10, 2008 10:00 by worker
Today, Monday 10th March 2008, workers from Bristol and South Gloucestershire Housing Aid Centre’s, and their supporters, will be holding a picket line/protest 12pm-2pm outside Shelter’s regional office – 1 York Court, Wilder Street, St Pauls, Bristol BS2
Workers at national housing charity Shelter will be on strike again on Monday 10th March 2008, as part of proposed ongoing industrial action, over senior management plans to scrap their pay and grading structure and force them to sign new employment contracts. These cuts will make it difficult for many staff members to maintain mortgage and rent payments, a bitter irony considering the nature of Shelter’s work.
As part of this strike action, six workers from the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Housing Aid Centre’s joined colleagues in Old Street, London to picket the Shelter Head Offices on Wednesday 5th March 2008.
Today, Monday 10th March 2008, workers from Bristol and South Gloucestershire Housing Aid Centre’s, and their supporters, will be holding a picket line/protest 12pm-2pm outside Shelter’s regional office – 1 York Court, Wilder Street, St Pauls, Bristol BS2.
In the current financial and housing climate of increasing housing costs, sharp rises in mortgage repossessions and people threatened with losing their homes as a consequence, people more than ever need good quality housing advice.
Shelter staff fear that the impact of the changes being forced through will adversely affect the quality of advice and support given to some of the most vulnerable in society. In future, their work will be done by lower paid and less skilled staff, within an organisational culture that provides no incentive for staff to remain long-term building the skills and knowledge base required to allow Shelter to remain the key housing and homelessness advice and campaigning service.
Every year the Shelter services in Bristol and South Gloucestershire are contacted by over 1500 people per year requesting casework, representation and advice to other local agencies. The advice and assistance provided includes preventing mortgage repossessions, helping homeless people to access accommodation, challenging substandard housing and disrepair, representing people in court to prevent their homelessness and raising policy issues with Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council to ensure customers are receiving the best possible service owed to them.
“The management have made it clear that they have no interest in retaining present staff who don’t agree with the way they see the future. A lot of commitment, knowledge and experience will be lost on 1st May 2008, and the remaining staff are insulted and de-motivated by the treatment they have received. We deal with people who are often very vulnerable and have complex problems. The cheap call centre model that is so popular these days won’t work, and people will be left without proper housing advice and representation.”. Quote from Wanda Knight who has been a Shelter caseworker in Bristol for six years.
Members of Unite the union decided by 211 votes to 78 in a secret ballot to take strike action to secure a rethink by the charity's management following months of fruitless negotiation over the issue.
"There has been an overwhelming vote for industrial action, and that must send a clear message to Shelter managers that it is time to change track," said Unite regional industrial organiser Alan Scott. "Dedicated Shelter workers are legendary among homeless people across the UK and those who are affected by housing issues because they work selflessly for justice, and will always go the extra mile for those in need.
"But they can't live on dedication alone; they need to bring home a wage based on their union's employment agreements with Shelter, rather than have their contracts scrapped and replaced with inferior conditions.
"Our members are saddened that they have been forced into strike action. We are particularly concerned that some of our members feel that they are being intimidated into signing the new, inferior, terms and conditions.
"Whilst our members recognise the funding difficulties that the charity is experiencing, they regard the solution as being disproportionate and do not accept that there was no alternative to management's proposed solution. In recent times Shelter has spent at least half a million pounds on refurbishing its head office, has employed six new change managers and ensured that senior management pay is in line with 'the market'. Our members believe that some of this money could have been used to protect their agreed terms and conditions of employment."
Shelter staff will be hit by:
1. Jobs being downgraded – some frontline workers taking a pay cut of up to £3,300
2. The removal of incremental points from pay scales – an average pay cut of £800 each year
3. Working extra hours for no pay – an average pay cut of £1,600 per year with no compensation for the additional cost for childcare or carers.
4. Redundancies in some areas, and existing staff competing for the newly graded posts.