Beds, Herts & Bucks

'Heartless' St Mungo's pulls out of Hitchin homeless hostel

Sanctuary strike
Image caption Five project workers at a hostel for the homeless were on strike over Christmas

A homeless charity has pulled out of its management of a hostel in a move condemned as "heartless" by the union Unite.

St Mungo's said it would withdraw from the North Herts Sanctuary in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, from 31 March.

In December, hostel staff took 12 days of industrial action, claiming they were paid less than another organisation for doing the same job.

St Mungo's said plans to modernise the facility had "fallen through".

It began managing the 17-bed Nightingale Road hostel for the homeless in December 2011.

A charity spokeswoman said it had been working to alter the service from a temporary night shelter to a 24-hour service, which had involved bringing in new shift patterns negotiated with Unite representatives.

St Mungo's regional director, Elizabeth Harper, said it had protected the team's jobs, pay and employment terms, as well as inviting staff to apply to come on to the charity's standard pay and employment terms, which the staff had declined to do.

"Unfortunately, the plans to acquire and modernise the building have fallen through," she said.

"We are consulting the project staff team about the implications for them."

She added the charity would continue to manage another five-bed supported housing scheme in the town.

Unite the union said it was concerned for the town's homeless and the future job security of its members.

National officer, Sally Kosky, said: "We believe that St Mungo's has behaved in a heartless fashion.

"We will be seeking assurances that the hostel continues to provide a fully staffed service for those in need."

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