Staff at the RSPCA have voted in favour of strike action over controversial new contracts introduced by the charity.
The trade union Unite said that 73 per cent of its members at the charity who voted did so in favour of strike action and the union would announce strike dates in the near future.
The dispute between the RSPCA and Unite was sparked by the introduction last year of a performance-related pay scheme, which the union said also included a two-year pay freeze and overtime reductions.
Third Sector understands that staff members who do not sign their new contracts before 31 March will be dismissed from the charity.
Unite has argued that the RSPCA’s proposals mean staff allowances, especially standby payments, would be reduced by 50 per cent.
An open letter from the union to the RSPCA’s chief executive, Chris Sherwood, last year said the new contracts were “deliberately restrictive, disingenuous and designed to fail”.
Jesika Parmar, regional officer at Unite, said: “These new contracts are very detrimental to our members.
“Certain members of the management team have adopted a bullying attitude to staff in a bid to get them to sign the new contract before the deadline of 31 March. Such behaviour is deplorable.
“We will be announcing strike dates in the near future, but we urge the management to take up our offer of Acas-brokered talks to avert industrial action.”
The union said that the welfare and care of animals would be the staff’s “top priority” during the strike.
A statement from the RSPCA said the charity was disappointed at the result of the strike ballot and only 300 people had voted in favour of industrial action.
The charity said that three-quarters of employees had already signed the new contracts, which were introduced out of financial necessity.
"We absolutely refute allegations that staff have been bullied throughout this process and we utterly reject the depiction of our charity by the union," the statement continued.
"Our staff are our most valuable asset and we are all united by our dedication to animal welfare. We have been open and transparent at all times and have been holding individual meetings with staff who wish to discuss the contract, and these have been conducted in a sensitive, caring and professional manner.
"We have been reassured by the union that the action will not impact on animal welfare and we have put contingency measures in place to ensure we do our best for animals during this period.
"We are reflecting on the request made by Unite the union to meet at Acas in order to avert strike action."