Branch Secretary :

Hestia: Unite growing rapidly

Many services barely functioning


Unite has grown rapidly in Hestia in the past year as the charity has put its staff under enormous pressure leaving many services barely functioning due to staff sickness and high turnover. 


In the past year Unite has gone from a handful of members to just under 10% of the workforce! We have won a campaign on the living wage forcing Hestia to pay its workers the London living wage as it promises. Since then, we have grown the profile of the Union rapidly by holding regular members meetings, developing a Hestia in Unite leaflet, and representing our members in a range of collective and individual disputes. This includes taking out a collective grievance against Hestia involving over 3 services and over 20 employees on the issues of covid safety, workload, and the bullying of staff from management. 


Toxic working environment


We recently held an open meeting for members and non-members to discuss the crisis developing in Hestia. Over 30 people attended from different workplaces; nearly everyone had a different horror story about their treatment by Hestia.  


Many of the issues are interlinked which create a toxic working environment but management still refuses to acknowledge this. The main issues are low pay and increasing workloads with more focus on targets than service user or worker wellbeing. This leads to staff burning out from stress and triggering staff mental health issues. 


Incompetent top-down culture


Staff are now leaving in droves, meaning some services are almost entirely run by agency staff. The staff that are left are forced to pick up the pieces by management. This is all reinforced by an increasingly incompetent top-down culture whereby bullying of staff is common practice. We also discussed the role of poor training and a lack of career development opportunities in pushing staff to leave. 



Unite members have led the way and outlined a plan for action to push back against this outrageous treatment of staff. Following on from our members' meetings we decided to proceed with a survey to highlight these issues. We now intend to use this to raise the profile of the union and develop a dialogue with a wider layer of staff to establish what the priorities are. Armed with this information we intend to put our demands to the employer. If Hestia still refuses to listen to us, we will be forced to consider a campaign of leverage potentially backed up with industrial action. 


Expose Hestia


We will use the survey to expose Hestia publicly, making links with sympathetic local councillors, in the media, on social media, raising health and safety issues with local authorities. As Hestia is a charity which relies upon a squeaky-clean reputation this could be very damaging to their reputation.  


As part of our campaign an important goal is to secure Trade Union recognition with Hestia. This will force Hestia to negotiate over issues such as working conditions and pay. If Hestia fail to meet our demands, we will have no hesitation in protesting publicly on these matters and to ballot our members on industrial action. Hestia you have been warned!  


2 December 2021


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