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Email blunder at St Mungo’s exposes shameful anti trade union tactics

JANUARY 29, 2020

Unite has called on Howard Sinclair, CEO of homelessness charity St Mungo’s, to step down immediately after a misdirected email revealed that the charity had been working with a top London PR agency on a strategy to stop people joining the union and ‘erode [its] support’, during this summer’s industrial dispute. 

The CEO is due to stand down in the autumn of 2020 after six years at the helm. 

The email which was accidentally misdirected by Sinclair to a Unite official and was also sent to employees of BLJ London, a PR consultancy which specialises in crisis management communications. In it he writes: ‘No need to change tac (sic). Our strategy should be to…stop more people joining and erode support.' 

The call for Sinclair to go, comes as Unite undertakes a re-ballot of its members for strike action, after failing to reach the 50 per cent threshold required by law by one single vote in September, despite 78 per cent of members voting for strike action. 

Notice was served on the employer on Thursday (19 December) with the ballot opening today (Monday 6 January) and closing on Monday 3 February 2020. 

St Mungo’s staff, members of Unite, who provide help and support to vulnerable rough sleepers across the South of England, including Brighton, Bristol and London, are angry over the way bosses are forcing through changes which threaten to reinstate race to the bottom terms and conditions that will lead to pay cuts, job losses and de-skilling. 

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “Christmas is a time for giving, but donors and funders of St Mungo’s are unlikely to be thrilled that the charity has paid for the services of a top London PR agency ‘to break’ the union during this summer’s dispute.  

“This email blunder has exposed Sinclair’s true colours. He must now do the decent thing and step down immediately to clear the way for negotiations to re-start with a clean slate."

This latest behaviour is further evidence of an increasingly erratic management which appears to lack direction or ethical compass.

As reported previously, St Mungo's were found in an employment tribunal to have victimised a female staff member who raised questions about equal pay and to have given evidence which was “both unreliable and inherently implausible.”

Management have also taken an extremely hostile attitude to Unite, threatening reps with trespass for attempting to visit members and putting other pressure on individual reps.

For example, Mr Sinclair wrote in a widely circulated email that the Unite convenor would “make a pretty poor ‘martyr’” and took legal advice on union derecognition in 2014.

Unite regional officer also said “It is deeply regrettable that Unite has had to re-ballot members. But senior management’s continued refusal to row back on plans to tear up the junior staffing cap agreement, unfair sickness policy and heavy-handed use of disciplinary procedures remain a major sticking point for our members. 

“Members fear that the move to tear up the union-negotiated junior staffing cap agreement is the thin end of the wedge and will lead to job losses, pay cuts and a deterioration in the quality of services delivered to some of the country’s most vulnerable people. 

“Unite’s door remain open, but we would urge Howard Sinclair to step aside at once so that negotiations can re-start and trust rebuilt.”

Further blog here - 'Apology from St Mungo’s after sharing rough sleeper information' 

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