RSPCA staff to vote on industrial action amid contracts feud

RSPCA staff are set to vote on whether or not to take industrial action in a dispute over new contracts and performance-related pay.

Staff are being sent voting papers by union Unite in a consultative ballot, which is designed to ‘test the temperature’ on whether to proceed to a full-scale industrial ballot. Voting closes on 5 December.

The move comes after the charity introduced new contracts, which include performance-related pay for all of the charity’s 1,700 employees.

Unite, which represents hundreds of employees at the animal charity, has warned the charity’s proposals to replace an incremental pay scheme with a performance pay arrangement could ‘exacerbate plummeting staff morale in an organisation where bullying has been endemic and not dealt with effectively’.

The union said other changes include reducing overtime and shift allowances as well as London weighting after 15 November. It claims direct consequence of the proposals would be a two-year pay freeze and represents an attempt to provide animal welfare ‘on the cheap’.

“Negotiations between Unite and the management over the new pay framework proposals have broken down. These plans will have serious financial implications for our members," Unite regional officer Jesika Parmer said.

“The new contracts will mean that it will be easier to sack our members which is totally unacceptable – and this move is coming against a background of a culture of bullying at the RSPCA.

“Our members are now being asked in a consultative ballot if they wish to go to the next stage of a full-scale industrial action ballot. However, there is a window of opportunity for the management to row back and enter into constructive negotiations with Unite.”

But the RSPCA has rebuffed some of the claims, arguing it is ‘not true’ that there is a two-year pay freeze, that staff basic salaries will remain the same and only annual increases will ‘potentially be subject to performance-related pay’.

“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,” the charity said in a statement.

“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 charity added it is “not a redundancy situation” and it is “hopeful all employees will choose to sign the new contracts if an agreement cannot be reached with Unite”.

“The RSPCA entered formal negotiations with Unite in early October and the talks have been constructive and open. We remain committed to working with Unite in the future and throughout this process will continue to keep all employees informed of progress,” it said.

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