RSPCA accused of trying to ‘erode pay and conditions’ for staff

29 Oct 2019 News

The RSPCA’s plans to change staff contracts and introduce a new pay system would damage morale and represent a backwards step for the charity, a trade union has warned. 

Unite said today it is concerned about the RSPCA’s plans to replace an incremental pay scheme with performance-related pay increases, which it claimed could see staff being sacked if they refuse to accept. It added that if management do not rethink the new pay deal it would consider balloting members on industrial action. 

It also warned that morale at the charity was low and could fall further if staff were forced to agree to the new pay arrangement. 

But in a statement the RSPCA said it had brought forward the pay review because of the challenging financial environment as part of a broader programme and emphasised that base pay was unaffected. 

The charity also challenged the allegation that morale was low and said it had taken a number of steps to deal with issues. 

Unite: ‘Taking a sledgehammer to an incremental pay scheme’ 

Jesika Parmer, regional officer at Unite, said: “What we have here is a management that wants to take a sledgehammer to a carefully crafted incremental pay scheme and introduce a performance-related pay scheme, but how you evaluate ‘performance’ when it comes to rescuing abused animals remains to be seen.

“The RSPCA already faces a ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis and morale is low – and this will get worse if pay and terms and conditions are eroded. Unfortunately, it will be these services that our members provide for thousands of animals that ultimately will be impacted.”

Changes include reducing overtime and shift allowances as well as London weighting. Unite said it is also concerned that the RSPCA is trying to remove its ability to negotiate on a range of contractual issues. 

Last year a Unite survey revealed that nearly half of respondents felt that bullying was a serious issue for the organisation, with 29 per cent saying that they had experienced bullying. RSPCA recruited a new director of people and culture and promised to put in place training for managers and take other measures to stamp out bullying.

Parmar added: “Lurking in the background is a culture of bullying, which a Unite survey revealed as rife, and further underlined by the management’s own staff survey which showed nearly a third of employees had witnessed or directly experienced bullying in the workplace.

“The management’s hardline attitude can be summed up by the imposition of a below inflation one per cent cost of living increase this month without the agreement of the union.

“However, there is still an opportunity for the management to have a reboot in the way it treats its workforce and we urge them to take this course before we have to consider a ballot for industrial action.”  

RSPCA: ‘Fair, modern and affordable’ 

In a statement the RSPCA said that base pay would not be affected and that the new deal relates to how future pay increases are determined. It hopes that employees will choose to sign the new contract. 

It said: “As a charity funded by public donations it’s crucial that we regularly review our pay and reward framework to ensure it is fair, modern and affordable, and we use money wisely to fulfil our mission to help animals. The current framework was due to be reviewed next year but this has been prioritised as the RSPCA, like many charities and organisations, is facing a challenging financial environment. This review is one part of a broader programme to ensure our costs are better in line with our income so we can do even more for animals who depend on us.
“Staff have been reassured that their base pay will not be impacted by the review. We are proposing that future pay increases should be based on affordability for the Society, linked to appropriate market pay and to recognise the contribution of employees. It is unlikely that any performance related pay will be in place for all employees before April 2022.

“The RSPCA entered formal negotiations with Unite in early October and the talks have been constructive and open. This is not a redundancy situation and we are hopeful all employees will choose to sign the new contracts if an agreement cannot be reached with Unite. We remain committed to working with Unite in the future and throughout this process will continue to keep all employees informed of progress.” 

It also outlined the measures the charity is taking to address bullying concerns. 

“There is no place for bullying of any nature within the RSPCA and there are policies and procedures in place to help safeguard staff and protect their wellbeing,” it said. “Our board has recently approved a new people and culture strategy which has employee wellbeing at its very heart. This strategy was informed by our most recent employee survey and we are working on training all our managers to the highest possible standard. We have also launched a wellbeing action group with Unite to review all relevant policies and explore fresh ways to ensure that anyone can raise a concern and access support.”   

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