St Mungo’s report fails to address bullying and victimisation of workers

by St Mungo’s Unite members

A new ‘independent’ report — compiled by a long-term associate of the CEO — has failed to address workers’ concerns in homelessness charity St Mungo’s. This follows a twelve-week solidarity strike. Unite has committed to stepping up its campaign.

Workers at St Mungo’s have taken strike action in
defence of victimised rep.
Photo: Paul Mattsson

Vicko, an employee of troubled homelessness charity St Mungo’s, following a record of over twenty years unblemished service for the employer, has been suspended for eight months on ‘gross misconduct’ charges for calling out senior managers bullying. The central charge is that senior managers were distressed at the suggestion. Other charges include eating a biscuit during an online team meeting!

Unite reps say that other staff have left because their concerns are not listened to, and a staff survey by Unite showed 68% of respondents had experienced bullying by senior managers. At the same time as this suspension, a staggering 44% of union reps faced formal HR processes and Vicko is a Unite rep. This is more than a nightmare faced by one staff member. St Mungo’s workers are deeply committed to the important services they run but are increasingly frustrated by the damaging intransigence of executives and board members.

Unite has called for CEO Steve Douglas to stop the nightmare but he has refused. Unite has also approached the board of trustees to discuss the suspension and the culture of silence in their organisation but they have refused point blank. It would seem they see their role as burnishing their CVs and networking rather than talking to representatives of their employees about the crisis in their organisation.

Councils must act

Unite members in St Mungo’s are calling for local authorities to insist that this suspension is lifted and a review of governance be implemented in the charity; the senior leadership clearly do not understand their responsibilities in relation to bullying. Unite branches and trades councils should pass resolutions calling for this, and supporters should put pressure on local councillors and London Assembly members.

The CEO has criticised Unite for giving publicity to the suspension and issues of bullying. Rightly, he says that publicity about management behaviour is damaging the organisation but he has the solution in his own hands. Unite is committed to stepping up its ‘leverage’ campaign until management takes the very easy steps needed to end the dispute. To allow the culture of silence to go unchecked would be far more damaging to the organisation.

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St Mungo’s strikers end 12-week strike

15TH JULY 2021

by Unite 1111 housing branch officer

St. Mungo’s strikers have now been out on strike for 12 weeks. On 13 July, Unite celebrated their efforts by holding a small protest to salute their sacrifices, sending them back to work with their heads held high in preparation for the next stage of their struggle against workplace bullying. So while the strike may be over for now, Unite remains in dispute with Mungo’s.

St Mungo’s 12 week strike rally
Photo: Paul Mattsson

The team demanded an independent investigation of St Mungo’s handling of their grievance. It was management’s refusal to even discuss this that led to the strike. Now St Mungos have agreed to an investigation. But the rep who has been suspended remains on suspension.

Beckie, one of the strikers, summed up her experiences: “I joined St Mungo’s in January this year, hopeful I was joining a caring and compassionate organisation. It’s a charity, so caring is what’s expected, right? Within my first couple of weeks, I answered the survey sent around by Steve Douglas with glowing praise. I was brand new, and my first impressions of Mungo’s were very positive. Honestly, now I just feel guilty that my answers contributed to organisational propaganda that Mungo’s has a zero tolerance of bullying, when our team’s experiences show this isn’t at all the case.”

When Beckie realised that she had been sold a lie by her employer, she decided to get even, joined Unite, and then voted for and took active part in the strike action.

A number of the strikers have now been made redundant or have decided to resign rather than return to a potentially bullying atmosphere at their former workplace. To continue with the strike in its current guise would have required a further ballot and those balloting would no longer have benefitted from employment protection. This would mean that Mungo’s could decide to sack them so workers have decided, temporarily, to call a pause to industrial action.

For those who do return, it will be with the knowledge that their union, Unite, is continuing to fight with and for them. Councillors in London, Bristol and Oxford have all attended our picket lines, and have pledged their support for the Mungo’s strikers. They have written to Mungo’s demanding an end to bullying and an independent inquiry into the issue.

Vicko Plevnick was, unbelievably, suspended from his work merely for the crime of alleging workplace bullying! St Mungo’s is largely funded through local authority contracts and a number of councillors have now offered support for the strikers, attending picket lines and raising concerns with management.

Although Unite recognises these small steps, we are not convinced that the so-called independent consultant is independent at all, or that her report will genuinely consider the testimony of the workers who have been bullied. That is why Unite will continue to mount pressure on Mungo’s independently.

We will be pushing for a serious review of governance to consider the role of the organisation’s leadership in relation to bullying. We believe that many St Mungo’s services remain excellent, but the behaviour of senior management risks undermining the culture and presents a growing safeguarding risk. So the fight must continue.

At the rally, Unite’s regional official thanked the branch but also the Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network for its unstinting support for the strikers, noting that solidarity is what keeps workers going and wins disputes. Watch this space for further action!

St. Mungo’s Strike: Management make concessions

13TH JULY 2021

by James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

St Mungo’s maintenance workers on their final day of strike action this morning. The battle has forced management to make concessions including an independent review into bullying.

Victimised shop steward Vico remains suspended for now. This strike is over, but the struggle will go on.

Unite members step up action against bullying Mungo’s managers

5TH JULY 2021

by Unite 1111 housing branch officer

Property service workers at St Mungo’s charity are entering their tenth week of indefinite strike action against workplace bullying. This follows victimisation and sustained bullying by senior managers.The team voted overwhelmingly for strike action. The turnout was 66.7% with a 100% ‘yes’ vote.

Maintenance workers for St Mungo’s on strike outside the charity’s head office in Wapping this morning (5th July 2021). Coming up to three months of action against against bullying and victimisation. Solidarity with Unite Housing workers LE 1111 – victory to the Mungo’s strike!

Three Unite union members were initially targeted by management, two of whom were Unite reps. One member was routinely criticised, shouted at, and embarrassed in front of the team he was managing

Within hours of Unite communicating a timetable for industrial action to Steve Douglas the CEO, a Unite rep within the team was suspended for ‘gross misconduct’.

This Unite rep had made over 27 serious allegations against three senior managers, two of whom are at the highest level of management including one on the senior leadership team.

An internal hearing, however, failed to uphold any of the allegations. Furthermore, 12 staff members who had witnessed the bullying and would have supported the complainants were not interviewed as part of the investigation. Managers were unable to explain why the 12 had not been interviewed.

Management has failed to follow the ACAS (the workplace arbitration service) best practice guidelines. Moreover, it has refused to discuss bullying with Unite on the grounds that it is ‘not a collective issue’.

To maintain pressure on management Unite, has taken up with the issue with local councillors.

Unite strikers are now doing a tour of Mungo’s workplaces outside of London to raise the profile of the strike in preparation for what could be an escalation of the dispute.

Unite reps who have been contacted overwhelmingly back the strike – with tales of their own experiences of bullying at Mungo’s.

Unite is calling for the suspension of our rep to be lifted immediately. It also demands that an independent investigation takes place into the bullying culture which exists at St Mungo’s.