Animal charity faces strike ballot in dispute over staffing levels

Union members at the animal charity Mayhew are to be balloted on strike action in a dispute over staffing levels and union recognition. 

The union Unite said it would canvas members at the charity over strike action because of concerns about the charity’s strategy and a rationalisation plan, which the union said could lead to a 40 per cent reduction in the number of veterinary nurses, a 50 per cent cut in cleaning hours and a 75 per cent reduction in reception staff. 

“This is on top of a pay and recruitment freeze over the last year for the 60-strong UK workforce which has meant that staff levels have dropped drastically at the charity,” the union said in a statement. 

Unite also said Mayhew had refused to officially recognise the union for negotiating purposes. 

About half of the charity’s UK staff are members, not including senior management, according to the union

Matt Freeman, regional officer at Unite, said: “We are holding this industrial action ballot over the charity’s unacceptable proposals for staffing levels and a consistent failure to listen to staff. 

“The ballot will be a key part of our campaign to ensure that our members once again work to uphold the best standards of animal welfare, and the trustees of the Mayhew should know that they cannot continue to ignore Unite members.

“Staff have been crystal clear that they demand a voice at work and Unite are determined to provide that. 

“There is still a window of opportunity, while the ballot is being conducted, when we can sit down with the charity for constructive talks about the best way forward for the organisation, the staff and members of public who look to the Mayhew for the care and treatment of their pets.”

A Mayhew spokesperson said: “Our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries are at the heart of everything we do and, as a much-loved and respected charity, we couldn’t do what we do without them. 

“However, any staff strike action would significantly affect the charity’s ability to care and treat the sick animals under our guardianship, as well as putting Mayhew’s future in jeopardy.

“We would certainly welcome dialogue with the union in order to resolve these issues as we all want a positive outcome.”

The ballot will ask union members whether they would support strike action and whether they would support industrial action that stops short of a walkout, such as work-to-rule. 

It will start on Friday and run until 10 December. 

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