Charity workers set up a picket line outside their offices in Old Street on Monday morning (December 5).

Islington workers for homelessness charity Shelter's head office joined more than 600 colleagues across the country who have walked out in a dispute over pay.

Two weeks of strike action are planned as Shelter workers say they are struggling to pay rent and are at risk of becoming homeless themselves.

The action follows the charity’s decision to increase wages by 3 per cent, when RPI (retail prices index) inflation stands at over 14pc.

Workers described the decision, a real-term pay cut of 11pc, as “hypocritical” and "heartless”.

The Unite union said the dispute became increasingly bitter after the charity’s management refused to enter into meaningful negotiations.

Talks collapsed last Thursday (December 1) and workers say they will continue to strike until next Friday (December 16).

Unite regional officer Peter Storey, who was at the Old Street picket line, said“Unite’s members at Shelter are entirely dedicated to their roles and are taking strike action as an absolute last resort.  

“This dispute has been caused by the heartless, hypocritical attitude of Shelter’s management who have refused to enter into proper negotiations. Shelter needs to take an urgent reality check and return to the negotiating table with an offer that meets our members’ expectations.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is unforgivable that workers at Shelter find themselves being haunted by the prospect of being made homeless. Shelter has sufficient reserves to pay its hardworking and dedicated staff a decent pay rise, but it has chosen not to.”

Unite claims Shelter can make a better pay offer to its staff, noting that last year the charity’s reserves stood at £14.5 million.

Tim Gutteridge, Shelter’s director of finance and strategy enablement, said: “Industrial action is not the outcome we wanted after months of talks with the union, but we fully respect people’s right to strike.

“This year we gave all staff a pay rise – which for non-management staff means an increase of between 8pc and 12.3pc – consisting of a 3pc consolidated increase and a one-off payment of £1,500.

“Anyone who needs urgent housing advice should visit to access our digital advice, and services information."