An MP has urged the RSPCA to get back around the negotiating table with union representatives in a bid to end an increasingly bitter dispute about changes to terms and conditions.
The animal charity has been in a long-running disagreement with the union Unite over a controversial new performance-related pay scheme for its 1,700 staff.
The charity has threatened to dismiss any staff member who does not sign their new contract by the end of March.
The union is planning a formal ballot on industrial action after an indicative ballot in December revealed that 88 per cent of RSPCA members supported such a move.
Yesterday, Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead & Kilburn, wrote to Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, expressing her concerns about the situation.
“I was deeply concerned to hear about the contractual changes being enforced by the RSPCA on its staff, some of whom live in my constituency,” says the letter, seen by Third Sector.
“Employees of the society are rightly concerned about their sick pay, maternity pay and other allowances being made non-contractual.”
Siddiq accuses the charity of making “efforts to effectively derecognise” the union, a claim rejected by the RSPCA.
“Whilst I appreciate the need for the charity to be financially sustainably in the long run, the time scale through which these contractual changes are being enforced and the lack of meaningful negotiation with Unite is a cause for concern," writes Siddiq.
She urges the charity to re-enter negotiations with Unite and the conciliation service Acas to reach an agreement.
“I am concerned that if the RSPCA insists on dismissing hard-working staff who do not want to sign the new contracts there will be repercussions on animal welfare, as well as damage to the good reputation of the society,” she concludes.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said the charity would be writing to Siddiq to address the issues raised.
"As we have stated many times, we do not accept that the negotiations with Unite the union were not meaningful," the spokeswoman said.
"We have been committed to positive and constructive negotiations with the union throughout this process, making significant reforms to the proposals in the light of staff and union feedback.
"We have also made clear that there is no desire to derecognise the union and that we fully intend to continue to work constructively with it on all relevant issues going into the future.
“We have been open and transparent with staff and will continue to do so. We are lucky to have such a passionate and committed workforce who all share our desire to make the world a better place for animals.”