Branch Secretary : info@housingworkers.org.uk
  

Hestia workers discuss cost of living crisis & pay

 

Fighting back

 

Workers across the sector are discussing how to fight back against the cost of living crisis and the unrealistic pay offers from employers. Below is a report from Hestia Care and Support. What are you doing in your workplace? If you are not a member join us today! And contact your rep or the branch to get involved: info@housingworkers.org.uk

 

 

The report below is an adapted version of a text circulating in Hestia.

 

On Thursday, Unite the Union members at Hestia hosted an open meeting on STAFF PAY and the COST OF LIVING CRISIS.

 

We had a great turn-out! Over 25 people were at the meeting with attendees made up of both Unite the Union members and non-members.

 

We discussed how the cost of living crisis will impact Hestia workers, Hestia’s financial situation, Unite the Union victories in other sectors, and how we go about winning the pay rise we deserve.

 

Cost of Living Crisis set to hit Hestia workers hard

 

We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, the likes of which this country has not seen for decades. We know that this crisis is going to hit the poorest households the hardest and with Hestia’s lowest paid workers on little more than £22,000 per year, there are going to many of us who will really struggle.

 

 

Inflation is forecast to hit 8% this month and so far, there has been no indication from Hestia that they will be raising our wages in line with this. Anything less than an 8% pay rise will be a real terms cut, one a large number of us simply cannot afford.

 

Low and stagnating pay a longstanding issue at Hestia.

 

While it is about to get particularly tough, low pay has been an issue at Hestia for a while.

 

86% Hestia employees we recently surveyed said that low pay had made them consider leaving. A staggering 77% reported struggling to make ends meet while working for the organisation.

 

One of our reps, Sharon, has been at Hestia since 2011 and is on the same salary now as she was when she started. If her wages had gone up in line with inflation, her current salary of £23,112 would be closer to £30,000, meaning she has seen a real terms cut of almost £7,000 over the past decade.

 

If you’re interested in seeing what your salary would be currently if it had gone up with inflation, you can use the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.

 

Workers at other organisations are being paid more

 

Low pay is an issue that affects workers across our sector and admittedly there are factors that contribute to this that are outside of Hestia’s control. However, organisations like Hestia, who win contracts by pushing down staff wages in order to undercut competitors, are undoubtedly part of the problem.

 

There are other service providers where workers are paid more than we are. A project worker at St Mungo’s, for example, is paid up to £28,457. An alcohol recovery worker at Turning Point is on similar.

 

It is not a coincidence that both Turning Point and St Mungo’s have comparatively high trade union membership and formal recognition agreements with Unite. This is because, as mentioned already, workers in unionised workplaces earn more money.

 

Hestia can afford to pay us more

 

As Nick Auvache, our branch organiser explained on Thursday, Hestia’s financial situation is good.

 

The organisation has over £15 million in reserves. This is money put aside for a “rainy day.” Hestia’s reserves increased by £2,316,999 between 2020 and 2021. A 10% pay rise for all Hestia employees would cost the organisation almost exactly that.

 

It’s been a tough couple of years for those of us working on the frontline, however, financially, they were good ones for the organisation we work for. Hestia is making a profit and not using that money to invest in staff and increase our wages is a choice.

 

Importance of building trade union membership

 

Collectively we wield a lot of power and can put pressure on Hestia to do the right thing and pay us a fair wage. This is why, if we want to improve our pay and conditions and in turn the quality of support we are delivering to our clients, we need to be working on building trade union membership at Hestia. And we’re already getting there!

 

Last year, we won a pay increase and back payments for the organisations lowest paid workers after it was revealed Hestia was paying a significant number of us below the London Living Wage. This demonstrates that when we get organised we can make a difference. Since then our membership has grown significantly.

 

While even without trade union recognition we’ve made substantial progress, a formal recognition agreement between Unite and Hestia would put us in a stronger position. It would give us a seat at the table and would mean Hestia would have to consult the union on issues such as pay.

 

There are a couple of different ways of securing trade union recognition and the larger the membership, the stronger the claim. As our regional office, Steve O’Donnell, explained on Thursday, we are not far off the numbers needed to begin the process. This is why it’s so important for people to join and to encourage their colleagues to do so too.

 

Unite victories in other sectors

 

Since Unite elected its new general secretary, Sharon Graham, the union has seen a wave of impressive victories. The union secured an incredible 31% pay rise for Argos lorry drivers, a 17% pay increase for tanker workers in Liverpool, and, after 8 days of strike action, an 8.6% pay rise for bus drivers in Manchester, to name just a handful.

 

Like our sector, transport and logistics have experienced extreme staff shortages. Workers have taken advantage of these shortages and used them as an opportunity to successfully push for higher pay. If we get organised, we can do the same.

 

Putting in our own pay claim

 

Unite members at Hestia need to decide what we feel a reasonable pay claim would be. Other workers in our branch, such as those at St Mungos, are putting in claims of 10%. It would be up to us to decide what we feel is fair, bearing in mind that due to inflation anything below 8% would mean a real terms pay cut.

 

By a Hestia worker

 

5th April 2022

 

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