More than 500 workers at the housing charity Shelter will stage a two week strike next month, in response to the organisation’s management attempt to impose a real terms pay cut on its staff.
Unite the Union believes that Shelter can make a fair pay offer and points to its reserves last year of £14.5 million, substantially higher than its target reserves of £8.9 million.
And a regional union officer has called Shelter’s management ‘arrogant and high-handed’.
One member of Shelter’s staff said: “The work we undertake, particularly in frontline services, is so valuable and clients depend on our teams.
‘Experiencing housing insecurity as a result of being unable to pay rent’
“At the very base level, absolute bare minimum, those working for a housing charity shouldn’t be experiencing housing insecurity as a result of being unable to pay rent.”
The staff, who are based across the UK, returned an 85% vote in favour of industrial action and will begin strike action on Monday 5 December, with the strike ending on Sunday 18 December.
Management at Shelter has sought to impose a 3% pay increase on staff, which the union says is a real terms pay cut with the inflation rate currently at 12.6%.
The union says that Shelter’s management has refused to negotiate and has instead begun to impose one-off payments – believed to be £1,500.
These payments will leave pay rates at low levels, the union warns, and fail to consider rampant inflation.
‘Management refused to listen and understand their financial plight’
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Shelter’s workers are absolutely dedicated to the organisation but they have been forced to take strike action as management refused to listen and understand their financial plight.
“Rather than sit on ever-expanding reserves, Shelter should be paying its workers a fair pay rise.
“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members, the workers at Shelter will receive the union’s unstinting support.”
Unite regional officer, Peter Storey, said: “Strike action will inevitably cause substantial disruption to the services that Shelter provides.
‘Created this dispute through the arrogant and high-handed manner’
“However, the organisation has created this dispute through the arrogant and high-handed manner in which it has treated its loyal workers.”
Tim Gutteridge, director of finance and strategy enablement at Shelter, told Third Sector: “Industrial action is not the outcome we wanted, but we fully respect people’s right to strike.
“Regrettably, the cost-of-living crisis is impacting both our colleagues and operational costs, and we are doing what we can to navigate these challenging economic times.
“This year, we gave all staff a 3% consolidated pay increase, as well as a one-off payment of £1,500. As a result, non-management staff are receiving an increase this year of between 8% and 12.3%.”