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RSPCA staff in strike threat

Issue: 07/02/2020

RSPCA staff are threatening to go on strike amidst claims that they are being bullied into signing new contracts.
The Unite union, which represents 700 of the 1,700 RSPCA staff, is to hold a strike ballot on the 4 February. A consultative ballet held before Christmas indicated that 88 percent of staff would support industrial action.
Staff are upset about the introduction of a new performance related pay scheme and the RSPCA has threatened to dismiss any staff member who does not sign the new contract by the end of March.
The new contract will replace the current incremental pay scheme and questions have been asked as to how ‘performance’ will be evaluated when it comes to rescuing abused animals.
In a letter to the RSPCA’s Human Resources Director Patricia Williamson, Unite regional coordinating officer Debbie Watson said there had been no meaningful talks about the decision to dismiss employees that don signs.
She wrote, ‘It is therefore our view that by coming to the stated conclusion that employees will be dismissed if they don’t agree to the new terms before discussions in the meetings have taken place that the Society has failed to adequately consult with them. 
‘I also note that you refer to a number of employees having already signed up to the new contracts. Feedback from those that have signed indicates that the majority have not done this willingly and that many have done this as they simply did not want to lose their jobs. 
‘Our reps advise me that in some of the one to ones, some of our members have been in tears and extremely intimidated by the messages sent by the management team.’
She added, ‘Members don’t have to sign these contracts until 31 March this year and they should not be bullied into signing them. Accompanying the contracts was an aggressive email threatening staff to sign before 20 December last year or face potential dismissal.
‘Following the overwhelming mandate we received in the consultative paper, we are now holding a full scale strike action ballot.
‘Morale has never been so low, and confidence and trust in chief executive Chris Sherwood and the executive team are at rock bottom. Many members blame the employment of temporary external contractors at a senior level for the proposals and also the CEO for a failure in leadership, with many questioning his judgement.’
In a statement, an RSPCA spokeswoman said, ‘We utterly reject the depiction of the society’s approach by the union.
‘We have been holding individual meetings with staff who wish to discuss the contract and these have been conducted in a sensitive, caring and professional manner.
‘Our employees are our most precious resource and we are lucky to have such a passionate and committed team who all share our desire to make the world a better place for animals and people.
‘We are naturally disappointed that the union has decided to ballot its members. We don’t think this helps our employees or our organisation.
‘We hope that employees who are members of the union will not vote for action because the changes we are making will lead to a stronger, more resilient organisation, better placed to face the challenges of the future. The RSPCA is acting out of necessity, not choice, so we can continue to meet the needs of the public and animals.’
The RSPCA is reported to have £233 million pounds in the bank and the highest paid employee is the Chief Executive Chris Sherwood who was paid £220,000. He is the eighth CEO of the troubled animal welfare charity in 11 years.
A survey in 2018 revealed that 29 percent of staff at the RSPCA said they had been bullied with 37 percent saying they had witnessed bullying.
Staff said that they have been exposed to ‘negative behaviours’ such as unmanageable workloads, having opinions and views ignored, being given unreasonable deadlines, someone withholding information affecting the staff member’s performance and being required to do work below their level of competence.
The Charity Commission has told the animal welfare charity that it had to improve its governance with ‘necessary urgency’ or face ‘regulatory action.’ RSPCA staff in strike threat RSPCA staff in strike threat

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