RSA ends staff pay negotiations as it predicts operating loss

12 Mar 2024 News

The Royal Society of Arts logo

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) has announced it will no longer take part in collective pay negotiations with staff for the current financial year as it forecasts an operating loss.

In a statement last week, RSA criticised trade union IWGB, which has been negotiating on behalf of its staff for the past year, for displaying “no willingness […] to understand the charity’s financial position, to engage meaningfully in conciliatory talks”.

“We have therefore written to the IWGB telling them that, regrettably, collective bargaining for this financial year is exhausted,” it said.

“We will now work in good faith with staff representatives to discuss the pay award for the next financial year.

“We have urged the IWGB to come to these talks with a realistic and resolution-focused mindset, particularly given our financial constraints, in the best interests of our hard-working staff, our charity, fellows and the wellbeing of everyone who works at the RSA.”

Meanwhile, RSA has announced that it will not appeal an order for it to pay almost £7,000 to a former employee after a tribunal ruled it has dismissed her for an “unfair reason” related to her union activity last year.

Union rejects latest pay offer

RSA said that it had received “lower-than-anticipated” income in the past year and now expects to record a deficit in the 12 months to the end of March.

It said that despite this “downturn in our financial outlook”, the charity made an offer at its most recent discussions with IWGB on 1 March to increase staff pay by an average of 7% for 2023-24, which the union rejected.

In a video posted on social media from the latest in a series of strikes held by RSA staff, a union representative at the charity said the offer was the same as one previously rejected by members.

The charity also said it had asked IWGB to pause public campaigning “to allow further discussions to take place”.

“Instead, the union have continued their campaign to disrupt the RSA’s operations and the hard work of our staff team. We believe there is never any justification for such actions,” it said.

An IWGB spokesperson said the latest offer was the same as one previously rejected by members but that its “door remains open as we continue to seek an amicable and constructive end to this dispute”.

“RSA have always claimed they wanted to settle this dispute via ACAS negotiations – we were initially hesitant as ACAS themselves had told us that if the RSA were unable to move from their initial proposal, it would be pointless to meet,” they said.

“RSA management turned up to negotiations ill prepared and unwilling to engage in a conversation in good faith – we made several compromises throughout the day whilst the RSA stuck with their initial, previously rejected, offer. 

“They sadly gave us nothing we could take to members, appeared not to have any decision making power to be in the negotiation room, and had not done the due diligence required for this kind of process.”

Charity decides against tribunal appeal

Last week, RSA also said it had decided not to appeal an employment tribunal ruling that resulted in it being ordered to pay £6,959 to its former head of policy and participation, Ruth Hannan.

RSA had sent a letter to Hannan headed “immediate termination of employment” after she called its stance on unionisation “hypocritical” in an Observer article published in October 2022.

The charity had handed IWGB a Future Work Award in 2019 before rejecting its staff’s request for it to recognise the union voluntarily three years later.

In its new statement, the charity said it had been “advised by our legal counsel to appeal” the tribunal decision. 

“However, we considered it a more prudent use of our charity’s limited resources to instead dedicate the time and money that would be spent on lengthy and expensive litigation to pursue our important social change mission while supporting our exceptional current staff team,” it said.

“Unfortunately, the IWGB trade union continue to use this case as an example of RSA wrongdoing, which we feel to be vexatious and unjust.”

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