Staff at the animal charity RSPCA are wishing that their management would extend its compassion for other people’s maltreated pets to its own human employees who actually do the hard work on the front line.
Shortly before Christmas last year, workers were told that the existing system of incremental payments, only recently agreed, was to be scrapped in favour of ‘performance pay’ contracts, under which standby payments and other allowances will be halved.
By Unite’s calculation, an inspector’s annual pay will drop by between £2,000 and £4,000, with other employees suffering similar losses.
When management told staff about its plans to impose the new contract unilaterally, even rejecting the services of the Acas conciliation service, it also emailed everyone to bluster that they all had to sign up to the new order by 20 December or face the sack – even though the official deadline is not until 31 March this year.
This strong-arm tactic panicked some into signing under duress, stressing out employees in the run-up to Christmas and reducing some to tears. This from an employer that has already faced devastating criticism of its bullying culture, said to stem from the “very top” of the organisation.
Some insiders put this sudden rush of blood to management’s head down to the practice of parachuting in temporary external contractors at a senior level, less concerned with either animal or human welfare than with the pursuit of profit at all costs.
But workers are fighting back. In an overwhelming consultative vote, they rejected the imposition of the new contract, and are balloting for strike action. The ballot opens on 4 February and will close on 20 February.
Workers in the charity sector have as much right as any other worker to decent pay and working conditions and freedom from workplace bullying.