Why are workers at homelessness charity Shelter striking?

More than 600 workers from Shelter are beginning an unprecedented fortnight of strike action (PA)
More than 600 workers from Shelter are beginning an unprecedented fortnight of strike action (PA)

More than 600 workers at the homelessness charity Shelter are beginning an “unprecedented” fortnight of strike action on Monday in a dispute over pay.

The Unite union said a three per cent pay increase this year had left some of Shelter’s staff unable to pay their rent and worried about the possibility of becoming homeless themselves.

The union accused the charity’s management of refusing to enter into meaningful negotiations.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is unforgivable that workers at Shelter find themselves actually being haunted by the prospect of being made homeless.

“Shelter has sufficient reserves to pay its hardworking and dedicated staff a decent par rise but it has chosen not to.”

Staff will join postal and rail employees and workers across several other sectors in taking part in strikes in what has been called “the winter of discontent”.

Shelter said some of its services would be “temporarily impacted” during the strike, but added: “We are making every effort to continue to serve those in need of our help.”

The strike action will end on Friday, December 16.

Why are Shelter employees striking?

Unite has said the imposed pay deal for Shelter staff is “a huge real-terms pay cut”, pointing out that the latest annual retail prices index (RPI) inflation rate announced last month was 14.2 per cent.

Shelter said that this year it had given all staff a pay rise made up of a three per cent consolidated increase and a one-off payment of £1,500. But Unite believes the one-off payments would “leave pay rates at unacceptably low levels, and fail to take into account rampant inflation”.

Unite said Shelter’s reserves last year stood at about £14.5 million, substantially higher than its target reserves of £8.9m, and that it was “fully able to make a fair pay offer”.

Shelter said: “Our ambition remains trying to support colleagues through this difficult period, while being able to deliver our front-line services and campaign work.

“As a Real Living Wage employer, Shelter is also implementing the Real Living Wage Foundation’s increase of 10.1 per cent from December 2022, much earlier than required, benefiting the colleagues who receive this at the earliest opportunity.”

What does Shelter do?

Shelter helps people in housing need by providing advice and practical assistance. It also campaigns for better investment in housing and for laws to improve the lives of homeless people.

It runs a free emergency helpline, 0808 800 444, 365 days a year, has solicitors who provide free legal advice and attend court in some cases, and carries out research.