RSPCA leaders accused of 'disregard for staff welfare' by union

26 Nov 2019 News

Trade union Unite has accused the RSPCA's management of a "disregard for staff welfare and morale" in an ongoing dispute over new pay proposals. 

Yesterday Unite sent an open letter to RSPCA chief executive, Chris Sherwood, in an attempt “to clarify its position” on the Pay Framework Review and related negotiations. 

Unite previously said it would ask RSPCA union members if they wanted to take industrial action in a dispute over pay and new contracts, and is now saying  “there have been no negotiations” with the charity.

The pay proposals 

Unite has said that under the proposals, staff allowances, especially standby payments, will be reduced by 50 per cent. 

It says that the Pay and Reward Framework proposals “go far beyond the introduction of a new pay framework” and that this is “not just financial but is ideological and to pretend otherwise is a falsehood”. 

It says the charity is pressuring staff to accept contracts, and exploiting the current financial situation “to threaten hard working staff with the sack if they fail to agree”. It adds that a Christmas deadline “shows a disregard for staff welfare and morale” and is “disgraceful”.

According to the RSPCA it is not accurate to describe this as performance-related pay because it only affects increments.

The charity said: “Throughout this process employees have been reassured that current base pay is not affected and the proposals only regard allowances and increments. Performance management of annual increments is usual in most modern workplaces - including leading charities - and would be developed with the union and employees and would not be fully introduced until 2022.
 
“We have listened closely to feedback from the union and staff, and have made a number of changes based on this.”

Meetings ‘deliberately restrictive, disingenuous and designed to fail’

The union claims that “there have been no negotiations” and that the design of the meetings over the statutory 45-day period was “deliberately restrictive, disingenuous and designed to fail”.

The letter reads: “When the union’s negotiating team showed the Society’s proposals to Unite’s Legal Team in London, their response was 'these rank amongst the most aggressive set of proposals ever seen by Unite' and they had never seen such a document within the charitable sector ever before.

“It was clear to all the proposals were not just financial but ideological, with a deliberate intent to remove the union from all future negotiations and diminish the working conditions for all staff, despite the assurances from the Society.”

The letter says that there needs to be an “environment of transparency and respect” in order for “meaningful discussions to take place”.

Union claim members 'make up the majority of staff'

Unite says the charity executive believed the union had only a small minority of staff and therefore that the the union was “an inconvenient irritant that can be ignored, ridden over and side-lined”. It says “membership had taken a hit over the past few years, mostly due to badly delivered restructures and the appalling staff retention levels” but that Unite members “now make up the majority of staff and that majority is getting bigger by the day”. 

The charity has said the union does not represent all staff at the RSPCA.

RSPCA: ‘We do not recognise the union depiction of negotiations’

The RSPCA said: “We do not recognise the union depiction of negotiations. Our door is always open to the union and we hope they will choose to come back to the table. The RSPCA entered into talks with a genuine desire to reach an agreement to ensure the RSPCA has a financially sustainable future, so we can continue helping animals most in need. 
 
“We are facing very challenging financial times and we have to act now to bring our costs in line with our income in order to be sustainable into the future.”
  
The RSPCA  said that it has “consistently stressed that it has no intention of making any changes to employee policies such as sick pay going forward and does not wish for protracted discussions as this would prolong uncertainty and concern for employees”.
 
It has also launched a Respect policy “which lays out the RSPCA’s commitment to an inclusive and supportive working environment that embraces diversity and inclusion and, importantly our zero tolerance approach to bullying and harassment”.

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