Anti-poverty charity recognises union for the first time

02 Feb 2023 News

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has recognised a union for the first time in its more than 100-year-long history.

At the beginning of this year, chief executive Paul Kissack signed a voluntary recognition agreement with Unite the Union. 

The agreement ensures the union’s growing membership at JRF sites in London, Glasgow and York have collective trade union bargaining rights when it comes to pay and employment conditions. 

Unite said the agreement covers around 150 workers initially, including those producing anti-poverty reports, administration and grounds maintenance staff. The charity has 737 employees overall, according to its latest accounts.

‘Odd that JRF has never recognised a union’

Writing in a blog, Kissack, said “it is perhaps odd then that JRF itself has never recognised a union” and that unions can play an important role in advancing the interests of employees and promoting the self-organisation of people at risk of poverty due to imbalances in power.

The blog continues: “At a moment when we see deep poverty and destitution in the UK rising, and extremes of wealth and power being entrenched, the important role that unions can play is perhaps more apparent than it has been for decades.” 

Kissack said his organisation should support unions as helping to create a more equitable society. 

“JRF should welcome the collective action of those who have too often felt powerless in the face of injustice. And in this context, trade unions offer a source of hope – a potential driver of social change,” he wrote.

He said he was grateful to Unite, and to its members within JRF, for seeking this recognition, and working with the JRF executive during 2022 to settle the terms of the agreement. 

“I’m grateful too to JRF trustees for supporting this new direction. And I’m very much looking forward to putting into practice the principles which JRF has long supported,” he said.

‘A significant step’ 

Unite regional officer Karl Stephenson said: “This is a significant step by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and will ensure that its staff have Unite in their corner to deal with workplace issues and collectively bargain on pay. 

“We look forward to building positively on this recognition agreement to benefit both the staff and the charity’s core aims and I urge all of Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s staff to join Unite.”

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