RNLI chief to take 50% pay cut as a third of staff are furloughed

Mark Dowie, who is paid £160,000 a year to head the life-saving charity, will have the cut backdated to 1 April

Mark Dowie
Mark Dowie

Mark Dowie, chief executive of the RNLI, will take a 50 per cent pay cut as 30 per cent of the charity’s staff are furloughed in a bid to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Dowie announced the move to cut his £160,000-a-year salary in half, backdated to 1 April, this morning.

Meanwhile, about 30 per cent of the charity’s 1,767-strong workforce will be furloughed over the next few weeks, he said.

Dowie told Third Sector that the furloughed staff would be drawn mainly from those “whose normal activities are severely constrained by the restrictions we’re all living under”, including the engineers in the RNLI’s lifeboat factory and crew trainers at the RNLI college.

The furloughed staff members will be paid 80 per cent of their current pay under the government’s job-retention scheme, which will be topped up to full pay by the charity for the month of April, the charity said in a statement.

Dowie said the charity had moved quickly to assess which members of staff could be furloughed, but it was possible more staff could be asked to go on furlough in the future.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to go on and for we don’t know how deep it’s going to cut, but we’ll learn things about what we can do and what we can’t do in the course of the coming weeks, and that might present further opportunities,” he told Third Sector.

He said taking a 50 per cent pay cut had been “a very personal decision”.

“It’s a charity I love and I want to show empathy with the volunteers, staff and supporters, many of whom are experiencing hardship at the moment,” he said.

Dowie said the cut would continue until all the charity’s volunteers and supporters could return to their normal roles.

The RNLI was forced to close its shops and stop all face-to-face, community and event fundraising as a result of the social distancing restrictions put in place last month to contain the pandemic, which has had an impact on the charity’s financial sustainability.

Dowie said the charity had funding in its reserves to cover its operations for just under eight months.

“We will no doubt be using a portion of those reserves to sustain us during this period,” he said. “The economies we’re making will not be the whole answer, so I’m certain it will be depleted.”

But he said he was confident the measures the charity had taken would allow it to sustain the lifeboat service.

Dowie said the charity would be looking to expand its online fundraising and move some of its events online so that it could continue bringing in donations.

“We don’t know how long the coronavirus situation will affect us and we need to take what action we can – now and in the next weeks and months – to make sure our charity is in the best position possible to weather this storm,” he said.

“This is on my watch and it’s my responsibility to make sure the RNLI is here to save lives at sea in the future.

“Everyone in the RNLI – supporters, volunteers, staff – are all going above and beyond to get us through these challenging times, and I want to make my contribution to the charity I love, beyond my day-to-day work leading this amazing life-saving service.”

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