Staff at support charity to strike for first time in 50 years

Workers at support charity Hestia in Hounslow have announced a two-day strike over “low pay and workloads”.

The strike action, to take place on December 12-13, has been announced the union Unite on behalf of workers it represents at the charity, which supports people facing challenges around mental health, addiction, domestic violence and the immigration system.

The union says that the charity’s management is “refusing to negotiate with Unite over a cost of living pay increase and the provision of adequate travel expenses” adding that “bosses have outrageously threatened Unite members with disciplinary action if they discuss pay with colleagues during work”.

Other concerns raised by Unite about the charity include “understaffing and imposing unrealistic changes in working practices” that put services at risk. Unite adds that the charity’s referral service has received a recent increase in council funding.

“Hestia management are running this important service into the ground,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“They’re ignoring dangerous understaffing and low pay. They must acknowledge this now and have meaningful negotiations with the union. These workers have Unite’s full support.”

The union’s regional officer Steve O’Donnell adds this is the first strike action in five decades at the charity, which launched in 1970.

“Workers are struggling to make ends meet and Hestia has a recruitment and retention crisis because of poor pay and conditions.

“Excessive workloads have reached dangerous levels and still bosses refuse to engage with the union. So management must address these problems urgently or the strike goes ahead,” he added.

A Hestia spokesperson said the action involves nine of its 28 staff based in Hounslow "despite the positive feedback we have received from them on the steps we have taken to respond to their consultation feedback”.

“We will of course do everything we can to ensure that any disruption for our service users is minimised,” added the spokesperson.

“We will also continue to work alongside our staff to ensure we are doing everything possible to make this vital service as successful as it can be.

“As a charity, we cannot deliver support to those who need us without our talented and dedicated staff.

"To strengthen our engagement with employees, we have formally recognised Unison for collective bargaining rights, and we will continue to work with them alongside our existing Employee Forum to create the best working environment possible for Hestia employees.”

Earlier this week hundreds of workers at homelessness charity Shelter began a fortnight of strike action over a pay dispute.

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