Staff at housing association support project Hounslow Hestia LIFE have voted to take strike action over pay, conditions, and workloads. They will walk out on 12th and 13th of December after their ballot for action was carried by 90% of members. They are being supported by Unite the Union.
Hounslow LIFE is one of Hestia’s larger services and supports over 600 vulnerable adults. Management at the project refused to listen to the union’s concerns over client safety when representatives highlighted the risks caused by understaffing and other problems. The workers say they are overworked, and that the pay is too low to live on.
Hestia’s managemenet chose not to engage with elected Unite representatives, but instead suggested that anyone feeling the financial squeeze refer themselves to a food bank.
“To refer staff to a food bank rather than offer a decent pay rise is a disgrace. As support workers we often have to refer vulnerable adults to food banks, now our employer is advising us to join them in the queue!
“Are management seriously suggesting that their own workers should rely on these sources of support to supplement the poverty wages they pay?“
Hestia Unite the Union Member
The refusal of Hestia to acknowledge staff concerns over conditions at the project is a warning sign that should be taken very seriously. Time and again, when scandals errupt over the mistreatment of vulnerable people living in or using support services, revelations emerge of warnings sounded by concerned staff but ignored by senior managers.
Hestia describes itself as “one of the largest providers of domestic abuse refuges in London and South East and the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in the capital.” With vulnerable service users who often struggle to speak out when things go wrong, it is vital that management listen carefully to concerns. Instead, Unite members claim that management has attempted to bully and intimidate them into silence.
Members of Unite employed by Hestia LIFE have taken a courageous step to escalate their demands to address problems at the project, but it should not take such extreme action. The board should act now to improve standards for service users and conditions for staff. SHAC stands in solidarity with all those taking action.
Follow the story on the Unite Housing Workers website.
26 November 2022
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