Staff at Shelter, the homelessness charity, are to take industrial action today in an attempt to hault management plans to force them to sign inferior contracts:
Their dispute arises directly from the government’s policy of commissioning out public services to the “Third” or voluntary sector – Shelter management says it has to cut staff wages and conditions in order to win government contracts for projects previously provided by public sector workers.
According to the UNITE union, “Shelter’s management has intentions not to work in partnership with other agencies in the voluntary sector such as advice agencies and Law centres, but to work in competition with these agencies.
“They intend to expand into other areas of law, with vastly lower pay and terms of service to win contracts and hence put competitors out of business where terms and conditions are higher and so far members have avoided changes.
“If Shelter’s management win this dispute and slash terms and conditions it will be a beachhead for other employers to attack terms and conditions in all voluntary sector bodies who are situated in much smaller workplace units than Shelter and less able to fight such cuts and an rely on other agencies to help defend themselves.”
This is a serious attack on the working conditions of workers at the sharp end of New Labour’s policies.
Ken Loach, a member of Respect’s National Council and director of the famous film “Cathy Come Home”, which highlighted the issue of homelessness, has said that people should stop donating money to Shelter until it stops its attacks on workers.
“I think Shelter’s behaviour is outrageous, telling workers to accept a deal or face redundancy,” he said. “I won’t be able to support Shelter and I don’t think others should. Shelter has always been campaigning and critical of government but it has become corporate and had its teeth drawn.”
The union got a 65.8 per cent turn out for the ballot, and a 76 per cent vote for industrial action — so they will be taking a series of strike days over the next few weeks.