The boss of a major housing charity has issued a cringing apology after launching an “enraged rant” at union reps in a meeting to settle a pay dispute.
Emma Haddad, CEO of charity St Mungo’s, who is paid an undisclosed salary, made the apology in an email to union reps on 21 June, after she had a “meltdown” during a pay negotiation. She said: “I should not have raised my voice. My frustrations at personal attacks on me, and more recently my colleagues, got the better of me.
“This is not my usual style and I apologise to you all. I can confirm all future interactions will be conducted in the usual constructive way.”
Following four weeks of strike action over the imposition of a “pitiful” pay offer, workers at the homeless charity voted to escalate to indefinite strike action, beginning on 27 June.
On 20 June two St Mungo’s workers and elected union representatives – Jacob Sanders and David Oladele – and regional Unite officer Steve O’Donnell, met with the charity’s CEO Emma Haddad to seek a resolution to the pay dispute.
However, the meeting ended after union reps walked out over Hadded’s behaviour.
In an email sent to St Mungo’s staff following the meeting, Sanders said: “Almost as soon as we had entered the meeting it became clear that there would be no attempt to resolve the dispute, nor any talking aimed at finding a solution.
“We had barely sat down before Emma launched into an enraged rant, telling us what she thought was wrong with our communications with our members.”
The email continued: “As she went on to talk about the appointment of her former colleague from the Home Office, Emma’s rage became even more marked. She said that we had treated her terribly when she arrived and were doing the same to Sean.”
Both Haddad and the charity’s newly appointed Director of Transformation Sean Palmer joined St Mungo’s directly from the Home Office. This has been a source of controversy, as many St Mungo’s clients are migrants who have been impacted by the Home Office’s “hostile environment”.
Unite reps said the charity is telling workers that it can’t afford to give them a pay rise, without being transparent about why. “It’s difficult to make sense of the data as the management accounts are still secret,” said Sanders. “The reason why they are secret is also a secret.”
“I suggested that slashing real wages was not the only way to control costs, and that St Mungo’s needs stronger financial governance generally,” said Sanders.
At this point, Sanders said Haddad replied: “Good, get that off your chest if it helps. It’s all absolute crap.”
At this point, O’Donnell ended the meeting. Haddad sent the apology the following day.
Sanders told Novara Media that Haddad “started shouting as soon as we came into the room, and continued until we got up to leave. She went into a kind of meltdown.”
Sanders said: “We’re told that when you pay huge salaries, you get special people with special capabilities who can manage all kinds of things that the average person can’t. But here we have a chief executive who is paid more than the prime minister, and apparently remaining calm during a difficult work meeting is beyond her.”
Sanders said that meeting had increased workers’ strength of feeling: “In Bristol, where I’ve been most of the strike, there are staff who we’ve been talking to on the picket line every day for four weeks without being able to persuade them to come out on strike. After this, several of them are now on strike.”
A spokesperson for St Mungo’s said: “The leadership team of St Mungo’s met with Unite representatives again on 20 June 2023, to continue discussing how we might bring this period of unprecedented strike action to an end.
“We are aware of allegations raised about the meeting and they are being taken seriously in line with our existing procedures.
“We are firmly committed to finding a solution to end this pay dispute at the earliest opportunity, so we can continue to focus on our important work supporting people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.”