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St Mungo’s strikes and the parasitical culture of corporatism, cronyism, and white supremacy

On the 30th May 2023, workers at the homeless charity St Mungo’s walked out of their roles and onto picket lines to demand a fairer wage. Abandoning late nights roaming the London streets, or early mornings saving people from overdoses, workers left some of the most stressful and challenging work environments to fight back against the exploitation of their good will. Surrounded by the mirrors and glass of the swanky St Mungo’s head office, wedged in between a fusion concept restaurant, a sourdough bakery, and a restaurant called “Champagne Route”, the strikers loudly reject the 1.75% pay rise offered to them for the year 2021/2022. Their key adversary in this fight is the stubborn ego of the new CEO, Emma Haddad, who recently joined the organisation after several Directorships at the Home Office (including directing the transformation of the UK’s asylum system and refugee resettlement programmes), the UK Border Agency, and several other roles at the Department of Work and Pensions.

Haddad’s time at the Home Office coincided with the development and roll out of the infamous, inhumane, and illegal “Rwanda Policy”, which has been described by lawyers as “not compatible with fundamental human rights”. Haddad also held a variety of senior roles with the DWP, during which time Universal Credit was rolled out to the majority of the population, described by The Guardian in 2018 as “fuelling Britain’s homeless crisis”. In this light, it is hardly a surprise that Haddad would rather spend the charity’s money on expensive agency staff as strike cover than engage in any meaningful dialogue on improved pay. In fact, if she had her way, she would likely prefer to ship off the striking staff (and probably most of the clients) to some far remote country. Or perhaps she would prefer to introduce further retributive government policies in the future that will see us all starve to death – either way.

The above portrays the heart of the issue. While the workers are striking about pay, the causal factor of what makes the charity feel emboldened to fight them is a systemic culture of corporatism, cronyism, and white supremacy. After a merger with the charity Broadway Homelessness and Support in 2014, St Mungo’s grew dramatically in size, which provided it with the capacity to win more government projects, to apply for more funding, to create more services, and try to take over a larger market share of homelessness provision. The language I use here is intentional, as with the growth in size grew a culture of corporatism, in which more and more employees were recruited for head office, in order to win contracts, to meet targets, and basically live the lifestyle of working at any inner-London company, while being able to impress friends at the weekend with the utter fucking sainthood of their professional life (we bow down to you).

You may be sat there thinking, “what’s wrong with that?”. While the organisation’s resources grew, the old adage of “with great financial resources comes no responsibility” applied. The organisation increasingly focused on running as a corporation, with this self-serving model ever requiring more head office staff to meet more targets, while completely giving up on the foundation of the work the organisation is supposed to do. The truth is that the clients St Mungo’s is supposed to help, and the staff who are supposed to do so are just a number to the St Mungo’s machine. In their view, these unknown hypothetical numbers running around doing unknown hypothetical work far from the corporate world of the St Mungo’s head office are not worth paying 10% more. Hypothetical numbers can always be replaced. It’s this mentality that means even when the striking workers eventually win, it doesn’t change the fact that the organisations that are supposed to protect vulnerable homeless people are seemingly broken.

Alongside the growth of the corporatism of St Mungo’s, a culture of cronyism and white supremacy has developed to support it. Due to the fact that St Mungo’s is a charity, and as such, has a considerable number of good hearted, talented, and diverse humans working for them, it is imperative that St Mungo’s keep any of these people out of any of the top jobs, for then the corporatism would cease to function, and the organisation might actually end up doing something useful! As I’m sure you can imagine, that simply can’t stand. To prevent this, St Mungo’s has developed a culture which values the young, the white, and the cut-throat, willing to do anything to advance their career and keep their bosses happy. These people will be swiftly promoted into new, strange, and unadvertised senior roles, solicited through secret emails from white people to other white people who can be trusted to play the game. Of course, they will occasionally throw in a few brown faces into the upper echelons, provided they are the “right type” who know that the boat isn’t to be rocked.

In the weeks of performativity following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, London-based homeless charity Single Homeless Project internally published the demographics of its staff and their positions. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take a genius to predict that as you went down the ladder, and down in salary, the staff got blacker and blacker. I charge that St Mungo’s without a doubt follows the same pattern, as does any other large UK homeless charity with significant government funding. The reason I am able to do this without proof is because anyone who has ever had the remotest amount of contact with these organisations will know this to be true. Supposedly it is only the young white professionals who bring the skill, the rest bring the labour.

If Emma Haddad were to dispute the above, or were to argue that her heart is in the right place, the first step to take would be to end the strike and give St Mungo’s employees the pay rise they deserve. The second would be to dramatically reduce the salaries of all of the senior management team including her own and begin a reorientation programme for the organisation that focuses on quality frontline work with its clients over the quantity of contracts. Even if we were to accept Haddad’s inevitable belief that the St Mungo’s employees are just greedy, it’s time to prioritise the greed of the employees over her own, to prioritise the wants of St Mungo’s clients for a functioning service, delivered by people who are paid reasonably for the work they do, and do so for the right reasons. Without this, the parasitical culture of corporatism, cronyism, and white supremacy will rot the organisation from the inside out, and nothing will be left.

~ An Anonymous Employee

Image: Guy Smallman

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