Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Strike action still threatened at Centrepoint

November 07 2011
 Second ballot could lead to November strike action


The dispute at homeless charity Centrepoint continues, with a second ballot being called, which will be completed by 3 November.

The charity, which has HRH Prince William as its patron, is involved in an increasingly bitter dispute over cuts to staff pay, and faces allegations that the cuts don’t affect senior executives at the charity.

The first ballot in September resulted in 69 per cent of trade union Unite members at Centrepoint voting for strike action, although only 36 of the 88 Unite members at Centrepoint actually voted. This lead to Centrepoint declaring this "a flawed ballot process."

The second ballot took place from 26 October to 3 November, with Unite saying a strike could commence from 10 November. Matt Smith, Unite regional officer, has stated the dispute revolves around cuts, "which could see staff losing thousands of pounds a year in pay, although senior executives will have their pay ring-fenced from cuts."

When asked whether it was true that pay for senior staff was from exempt from cuts, a spokesman for the charity told The Pavement: "The number of Centrepoint staff earning more than ú60,000 p.a. has fallen from seven in 2007 to four in 2011. During the last two years, nobody in that bracket has either requested or received a salary increase or any form of additional performance related pay. The Board of Trustees set executive pay and review this annually based on market rates."

Unite have further accused Centrepoint of ignoring the use of conciliation service Acas, and instead of commissioning international law firm Eversheds to intervene. In a press release Matt Smith of Unite said: "Even though pleading poverty, [Centrepoint] has managed to hire one of the largest and richest law firms to threaten us with a costly injunction."

Although Centrepoint said in a statement, itself a response to questions about the dispute, that it "has a long tradition of using pro bono legal support to ensure that funds raised from donations are directly used to help homeless young people," when pushed on whether they have hired Eversheds to act in the dispute, they told us: "I'm afraid it's not our policy to comment directly on legal matters."

Centrepoint claims that Unite has been unhelpful in resolving the dispute. A spokesman from the charity said: "During five months of negotiation with Unite, Centrepoint made two improved proposals, resulting in a maximum salary reduction of 10 per cent for any member of staff, with the majority receiving a five per cent reduction. Unite failed to produce any counter proposals and its representatives left a conciliation meeting with ACAS before its conclusion."

Unfortunately for the charity, this dispute follows bad publicity in the summer, when it was revealed its Chief Executive Seyi Obakin had traveled to America to join the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their official visit. This trip was taken after pay negotiations had already begun.