Majority of National Trust for Scotland staff 'have no confidence in restructure plans'

A survey of union members at the charity indicate high levels of unease about planned measures to save money although industrial action is not planned

Culzean Castle, a National Trust for Scotland property
Culzean Castle, a National Trust for Scotland property

More than 80 per cent of National Trust for Scotland staff responding to a trade union survey said they have no confidence in the charity’s restructure plans, with almost 90 per cent claiming the reforms will fail to support the charity’s aims.

Earlier this year, National Trust for Scotland announced a wide-ranging restructure programme designed to address a £47m "conservation backlog" and save £4m a year. This includes relocating staff and services from its headquarters and a three-year £17m investment plan for some of its 129 properties.

The charity said that 142 of its 540 full-time staff were at risk as a result of the changes, and the proposals were discussed at the charity’s annual general meeting on Saturday.

Prospect, which has been in formal consultation with the charity about the reforms, held a survey among its members about the plans and found that 82 per cent of respondents have no confidence in the charity’s proposals.

It also found that 88 per cent of respondents felt the reforms would fail to support conservation and heritage.

Only 5 per cent said they believe the charity will be in a stronger position following the restructure.

A spokesman for the union did not disclose its exact membership numbers at the charity but said 204 members responded to the survey. 

Ian Perth, negotiator for Prospect, said the survey's participants were "genuinely worried about the future of the charity".

"While it’s natural that organisations will seek to improve their financial position, it’s important that NTS doesn’t forget the reason for its existence," he said.

"The trust’s membership levels are at a record high and Prospect’s many members are concerned that senior management have become far too commercially-focused.’’   

Perth also said Prospect expected the number of compulsory redundancies at the charity to be reduced but said its members were "increasingly frustrated by the lack of detail in the plans before them".

He said: "We don’t believe that the Trust can continue to implement these proposals when so many questions remain unanswered. Our members are seeking answers to basic questions and so far the responses have been unsatisfactory."

But he said he did not expect to ballot members over industrial action in the near future. 

Simon Skinner, chief executive of National Trust for Scotland, said: "It is conservation which is at the core of this change programme. Failing to address the trust’s long-standing issues is not an option. We need to change and we need to change now.

"Early information from an independent survey shows that in fact the majority of staff do support the need for strategic change and are clear where they can find information about the plans.

"The trust has made every effort to communicate fully and openly with Prospect through this consultation process, holding regular meetings and responding to dozens of papers submitted by them."

According to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s website, the National Trust for Scotland had an income of £46.8m for the year ending 28 February 2015, compared with expenditure of £49.2m.

The charity has also announced a £2.5m upgrade to Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire, as part of its investment plans.

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