A dispute over pay has caused more than 600 employees of the housing and homelessness charity, Shelter, to walk out on a 2-weeks long strike. During the same hours, a new statue representing a homeless person was unveiled in front of King’s Cross station.
During an industrial action started on Monday 5th of December, Shelter workers said to fear for their own living conditions, as homelessness becomes a real threat due to the insufficient pay rise the management imposed. 3 percent increase is in fact what they received from the company, leaving them unable to face the much higher inflation, calculated at 14 percent.
The past few weeks have already seen railway and postal employees taking part in protests related to pay, Shelter workers have now joined their crowd.
Unite supported the claims of its members. In a statement, its general secretary, Sharon Graham, who said: “Shelter’s workers are absolutely dedicated to the organisation but they have been forced to take strike action as management refused to listen and understand their financial plight.”
This action, never seen before, is likely to heavily impact the assistance provided to homeless people in the UK, just as temperatures are predicted to plummet. Shelter services, including its helpline, free legal advice, and campaigns, have been indeed “temporarily impacted” by the protests, due to end on the 16th of December.
Data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) showed a 35 percent increase in rough sleepers in London, compared to 2021, when improvements from previous years were showing. The Government predicts 300,000 households will face homelessness in the next year.
The Shelter’s director of finance claimed “The cost of living crisis is impacting both our colleagues and operational costs, and we are doing everything we can to navigate these challenging economic times.”. He specified the discussions are ongoing, but the company respects the employees’ right to strike.
This event has shone a light not only on the already serious issue of homelessness, but also on the role the cost of living crisis has in perpetuating it and damaging the system of assistance available.
While many wait for further effective measures from the Government, the Mayor of London, Rishi Sunak has already announced to have delivered 1,000 homes for those sleeping on the streets of London.
Well-known names put effort into spreading awareness about the homeless situation in London. As an ambassador of Crisis, The Crown starring actress Imelda Staunton, unveils a giant-sized statue depicting a homeless lady, just in front of the King’s Cross station entrance.
An unfortunate coincidence wanted this new addition to the station to be inaugurated just at the same time the Shelter company faces struggles to help homeless people as it normally would.
London and many other cities in the UK are eager to see the outcome of the industrial action, especially with the holiday season fast approaching.