Oxfam will carry on with restructure despite pandemic

The international charity postponed the restructure when the pandemic hit and now has two-thirds of its staff on furlough

 An Oxfam store (Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
An Oxfam store (Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

Oxfam will press ahead with a restructure even though two-thirds of its UK employees are on furlough.

In January, the charity said it would be cutting jobs and reducing core costs in an effort to address a £16m black hole in its accounts, although it did not say how many jobs would be at risk.

In March, the charity placed two-thirds of its 2,100-strong UK workforce on furlough after coronavirus restrictions forced the charity to shut its chain of charity shops and led to the cancellation of a number of key fundraising events. Most furloughed staff worked in the charity’s shops.

A consultation with staff on the restructure was opened at the beginning of March but postponed as a result of the pandemic.

But a spokeswoman for Oxfam GB said: “I can confirm that we have taken the difficult decision to press ahead with restructure plans at this time.     

“Like many charities, Oxfam has suffered a sharp drop in income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and we have no option but to take action now to reduce our expenditure.”

She said the closure of the shops alone was costing the charity £5m a month.

The charity had conducted a strategic review of its operations, she said, to ensure that it adapted to a changing world, lived its values and was as effective as possible in fighting poverty over the next 10 years.

“These plans are being reviewed in light of the current situation and to ensure that we are able to do everything possible to protect the communities we work with, both from Covid-19 and the brutal impact on people’s ability to feed themselves and their families,” she said.

This round of job cuts will be the second in two years. The charity cut about 100 jobs in 2018 in the wake of the Haiti safeguarding crisis.

In a memo leaked to The Times newspaper in January, Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam, said the charity faced a £7m deficit in 2019/20 and a further £9m deficit in 2020/21 unless it took action.

Oxfam had an income of £434.1m in the year to 31 March 2019, an increase of almost £7m on the previous year and significantly above the charity’s £397.5m spending in 2018/19.

It is understood that the fallout from the Haiti safeguarding scandal, when seven members of staff resigned or were sacked after revelations of sexual misconduct in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, is not the primary reason for the financial problems.

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