RSA fellows petition for special meeting after trustees reject inquiry into staff treatment

03 Apr 2024 News

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A group of fellows of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) have launched a petition for a special general meeting after the charity’s trustees rejected their request for an inquiry.

Some past and current RSA fellows, who pay an annual subscription to the charity, recently called for an independent inquiry into their concerns over issues including staff treatment.

But last month RSA trustees rejected the fellows’ request for an inquiry, which they said would be an “inappropriate use” of the charity’s time, money and people.

The group has now put out a call for 500 RSA fellows to support its plans for a special general meeting to be held.

Meanwhile, RSA announced last week that its chair Tim Eyles will step down this year at the end of his second term.

This comes amid an ongoing pay dispute between the charity and its staff, which has included the first strikes in the charity’s 270-year history taking place.

Request for independent investigation

The group of fellows sent a formal request for an independent investigation to RSA’s trustees in January.

It requested that the inquiry covers “issues from current and previous staff relating to their treatment” as well as concerns of existing fellows and those that had resigned “on matters of principle”.

The group also requested the RSA should “suspend all disciplinary and performance reviews of existing staff, other than issues of gross misconduct”, pending an interim report from the inquiry.

Trustees reject inquiry request

RSA trustees met a group of fellows in February to discuss their concerns and sent a letter on 1 March rejecting their request for an inquiry.

“At our meeting, we discussed your request for an inquiry into the affairs of the RSA and that the way you have framed the scope of that request in prior correspondence is extremely broad,” the letter from RSA’s trustees reads.

“During the meeting you elaborated on your request for an inquiry, by saying that your primary focus was in relation to staff.

“However, you were unable to produce any evidence for us to investigate regarding concerns about staff matters.

“You have proposed a scope of five years, and to include those who have left the RSA (both staff and fellows).

“The board believes this is inappropriate and impractical, it is also unevidenced in its basis and hugely disproportionate to the matters you have raised.

“In the light of the extensive information with which we have been able to provide you, which sets out very clearly the priority given to staff welfare and the routes for staff to raise any concerns they may have, the board do not believe there is a valid basis or necessity for any inquiry.”

Petition for special general meeting

Following the trustees’ rejection of an inquiry, fellows launched a petition to hold a special general meeting.

“We are a growing collective of concerned RSA fellows deeply committed to upholding the integrity and values of our esteemed organisation,” it reads.

“Given recent developments indicating a troubling erosion of our cherished values and cultural identity, we believe there is an urgent need for unified, collective action from the fellows network.”

“Under clause 10.6 of the RSA's bye-laws 2021, a group of at least 500 fellows holds the power to convene a special general meeting to address pressing matters.

“We are resolute in our belief that initiating an independent investigation is necessary to ensure transparency, accountability, and the restoration of the organisation's founding principles and values.”

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