RSA staff vote for first ever strike amid pay dispute

05 Sep 2023 News

Demonstration: Silhouette of protesters with banners against a grey brick wall.

Jonathan Stutz, Adobe

Staff at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) are set to strike for the first time since the charity was founded 270 years ago.

Those represented by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) have voted to strike for two days. 

Staff have given notice of strike action for 19 and 21 of September, the latter day being the day RSA hosts the Princess Royal for an awards ceremony.

Around four in five IWGB members at the RSA voted, the union said, over nine-tenths of which supported strike action. The union told Civil Society it is unsure how many workers will strike, but it assumes at least 39 from the ballot results. The entire bargaining unit consists of 87 workers who are eligible to strike.

The union states staff are demanding a flat pay rise of £2,800 for all staff members.

RSA has said pay discussions between the charity and IWGB have been ongoing since the union was formally recognised in March 2023.

Members of IWGB employed by the RSA had applied for voluntary union recognition at the charity last year, which it rejected.

This month’s strike follows industrial action elsewhere at charities this year, including an indefinite strike that recently concluded at the homeless charity St Mungo’s.

Union: ‘Paltry offer’

An IWGB member at the RSA said: “This result confirms what we already knew – that a majority of staff are united in our disappointment with management’s paltry pay offer and their cynical approach to negotiations. 

“Management’s failure to engage with the collective voice of the workforce in a mature way has led us to this point.”

Alex Marshall, president of the IWGB, criticised the charity’s leadership team’s approach to pay negotiations, saying they have “cynically attempted to undermine democracy, sew division and impose a meagre raise during a cost-of-living crisis”.

“Meanwhile senior management not only enjoy bumper salaries but are also sat on reserves of £32m. 

“The result of the ballot reflects workers’ resolve to win the pay rise they deserve and they will not give up until they have won it.”

RSA said none of its leadership team has received a pay rise in the past two years.

RSA’s highest-paid employee in its most recently published accounts earned between £120,000 and £130,000 in the year to March 2023.

It had total reserves of £31.7m as of March 2023.

Civil Society has contacted the RSA for comment.

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