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Cost of Living Charity Fired its Staff After They Tried to Unionise

Frontline advisors at Rooted Finance sacked on International Women’s Day

Photo: Carolyn Jenkins/Alamy

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A debt advice charity helping people survive the cost of living crisis has laid off its frontline staff after a fight over their attempts to unionise in protest at poor pay and conditions.

Byline Times understands the dismissals went through on Friday 8 March, meaning the affected employees, including several female staff, lost their jobs on International Women’s Day.

Those spoken to were now concerned about how they were going to make ends meet themselves after suddenly losing their jobs.

Rooted Finance is an East London debt support charity – supported by the Mayor of London and national food bank charity The Trussell Trust – which claims it offers “respect, choice and agency” to those dealing with debt and financial hardship.

In December last year, all of its frontline advisors, dealing with alleged low pay, a lack of training and poor working conditions, chose to join the IWGB trade union and submit a request for union recognition. They also submitted a letter of grievance outlining their concerns to management.

After a period of no response, eventually the frontline team was invited into a group meeting with Rooted Finance’s chief executive Muna Yassin.

Multiple union organisers told Byline Times that during the meeting Yassin began shouting at staff over their decision to try and form a union.

After the meeting and their refusal to retract their request for union recognition, staff claim they were then scheduled into 1-to-1 meetings with management “every day for four days in a row”.

“We made it clear we saw it as intimidation,” as one member explained it. “We saw it as a situation where individual union members would be interrogated about that choice to join the union by multiple members of management.”

The group chose not to attend the 1-to-1 meetings and spent a day working from home in protest at the alleged “intimidation” they were facing at the office.

As a result, afterwards they were called into formal disciplinaries, and eventually fired.

That same day an interview with Yassin was posted by the Mayor’s Fund for London, in which she talks about the women that inspire her and expresses her dedication to “financial equality” and the ideal that “financial freedom is a social justice issue”.

“One of the reasons why I initially wanted to work for Rooted Finance was I thought they were one of the good guys and I’d be able to help people and make a change,” says Joseph Larkin, one of the main organisers who lost their job in the firings.

“It’s really upsetting that they claim to be an economic justice charity, and then they treat union members in this disgusting way.”

“Lots of us have rent to pay, lots of us have families and relatives we need to support,” he added. “We’re devastated by this.”

“Muna [Yassin] is putting us in this position just for asking for more money for our work during the cost of living crisis, better training so we can support our clients better and more work from home days.”

Those Byline Times spoke to also expressed serious concerns about the impact the sudden dismissals would have on the vulnerable clients they were supporting.

One affected staffer said the move went through so suddenly that he lost access to his laptop midway through working on support for a client.

In a statement sent to Byline Times, Yassin claimed that client services at the charity were “unaffected” by the move, and disputed parts of the testimonies put forward by former employees but could not comment further as it was “an ongoing legal situation”.

Yassin claimed that the charity had been “bullied by aggressive and unlawful tactics” employed by the IWGB union and that they “respect all members of our team and take their treatment and wellbeing very seriously”.

“Any action Rooted Finance has taken is in relation to the employees’ conduct under their individual employment contracts, not union activity, and they have the right to appeal the action, as is the option open to them in employment legislation”, she added.

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