Ending homelessness, rebuilding lives

Unite the Union industrial action

Update (25 August): Unite the Union voted to accept an offer made by St Mungo’s at ACAS, in a members’ ballot which closed on 25 August.

The offer gives St Mungo’s staff earning up to and including point 36 on the National Joint Council (NJC) pay scale, £1,200 per year, every year, as a St Mungo’s allowance. This is in addition to the annual NJC pay award, which is still being negotiated nationally.

Taken together, over 90% of St Mungo’s staff will receive a total minimum pay rise of £3,125 in 2023-24. This works out as a 7-15% pay rise, depending on current salary.

The dispute related to the nationally agreed pay increase for the year 2021/22. The following provides context and information about the situation, and how St Mungo’s supported its staff throughout this period.  

Unite’s dispute relates to the national pay rise awarded for 2021-22. A 1.75% uplift was applied to salaries for 2021-22 which was agreed at a national level by the National Joint Council (NJC) and implemented by St Mungo’s in accordance with its recognition agreement with Unite.

This dispute has been brought by Unite at a local level. Locally, Unite is asking to increase the pay rise for 2021-22 to 10%, in a backdated and consolidated pay rise for all eligible colleagues. St Mungo’s cannot afford this.

Negotiating on issues of pay with recognised unions at a local level is outside of the recognition agreement, however, Unite has invoked the Avoidance of Dispute procedure. As St Mungo’s recognises concerns regarding the cost of living, and was keen to avoid strike action, it agreed to work outside of the recognition agreement on this occasion as an exception.

St Mungo’s has been working with its convenors from Unite to resolve the dispute for many months. Three Avoidance of Dispute meetings have taken place and St Mungo’s has participated in several ACAS meetings (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), the first of which was in December 2022, to reach a solution. 

The most recent ACAS meeting, held week commencing 14 August, proposed an 11-part package to resolve the current dispute. The package, if accepted, will award a consolidated pay rise of £1,200 for everyone earning up to and including National Joint Council (NJC) pay point 36, effective from 1 April 2023.  

It also includes other commitments , including increased annual leave, early payment of the 2023-24 NJC pay award that is still being negotiated (with a view to paying the difference once the final amount is agreed), and a freeze on CEO and Executive team pay for one year. 

The package has been put to members to vote, in a ballot open 21 – 25 August. 

If St Mungo’s met Unite’s request for a 10% backdated and consolidated pay rise for all eligible colleagues for 2021-22, it would cease to be financially viable as an organisation. It would cost St Mungo’s £4.6m for 2021-2022, based on actual staff numbers for that year, and £5.1m for 2022-2023, based on the budgeted head count for this financial year. This is a total of £9.7m.

St Mungo’s cash reserves have already been depleted in the past 12 months, due in significant part to the one off payment of £700 to all eligible staff, which cost approximately £1.2 million.

St Mungo’s, like all registered charities, has a minimum of cash and reserve amounts which are set by its Board of Trustees, which would allow St Mungo’s to operate for a minimum of three months. St Mungo’s must also meet strict external governance rules, including the Regulator of Social Housing, which independently rates St Mungo’s on governance and financial viability.

A six month mandate to strike was announced on 31 March following a ballot of Unite members. 

Unite gave notice of an intended strike from 24 April – 21 May 2023, on 6 April, which was postponed following a further offer from St Mungo’s. This offer was rejected and, on 9 May, a period of 28 days of strike action was announced, from 30 May – 26 June.  

This period of strike action was extended indefinitely following a members’ meeting on 12 June 2023. 

For information on offers which have been made by St Mungo’s, please see How has St Mungo’s tried to resolve this matter? 

Please note that the dispute does not relate to the nationally agreed NJC pay rise for the financial year 2022/23.

This has seen all eligible staff receive a pay rise of £1,925 (pro rata) backdated to April 2022. This equates to an increase of between approx. 10% and 3.7%, depending on individual salaries and is an average increase of 5.5%.

In addition, all staff up to National Joint Council Point 30 (including locums) received a £700 payment to support them with the cost of living – paid in two instalments in February 2023 and March 2023.

Pay increases are agreed at St Mungo’s through the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services, which is made up of National Employers and Trade Union Representatives. It is a national body which meets every year to negotiate whether there will be an annual pay increase for its members, and if there is, how much it will be.

Both St Mungo’s recognised unions – Unite the Union and UNISON – as well as another union, GMB, make up the trade union side of these negotiations. St Mungo’s is not involved in these negotiations.

St Mungo’s has an agreement with its unions called a ‘recognition agreement’ which states that St Mungo’s will implement pay as agreed through the national NJC process, providing the agreement is affordable.

This dispute has been brought by Unite at a local level. Negotiating with recognised unions at a local level on issues of pay falls outside of the recognition agreement, however, Unite has invoked the Avoidance of Dispute procedure. As St Mungo’s recognises concerns regarding the cost of living and is keen to avoid strike action, it has agreed to work outside of the recognition agreement on this occasion as an exceptional one off.

St Mungo’s recognise both UNISON and Unite the Union and respect its staff’s right to join and participate in a union of their choice. St Mungo’s is committed to promoting constructive positive working relationships with both its recognised unions, and believes that unions can be a force for good in the workplace.

St Mungo’s has a commitment to paying fair wages. If the pay offer made at ACAS week commencing 14 August is accepted, salaries at St Mungo’s will be significantly higher than those for comparable roles in similar organisations. 

St Mungo’s pay allowances that others in the sector do not, such as London weighting. St Mungo’s also uplifts salaries at the bottom of the NJC scale which do not reflect the Real Living Wage (determined by the Living Wage Foundation) and does not employ anyone on the lowest point on the NJC scale (scale point one).  

Staff who work in central service functions are generally paid at the market median rate for their roles.