Representatives from the RSPCA and the trade union Unite have agreed to meet today in a last-ditch attempt to avert strike action over the introduction of new staff contracts.
Last month, members of the union voted in favour of strike action over the RSPCA’s plans to bring in a performance-related pay scheme for salary increments, which the union said also included a two-year pay freeze and overtime reductions.
Staff members who do not sign their new contracts before 31 March have been told they will be dismissed.
The relationship between the charity and the union broke down at the end of last year, and until now the two sides have been unable to agree on a date for meeting to attempt to resolve the dispute.
Last week, however, the union told members that the RSPCA had agreed to attend a meeting today at the resolution service Acas.
But Third Sector understands the charity has also written to members of staff who have still not signed their new contracts, explaining the steps the RSPCA was taking ahead of their possible departure and warning them that they will need to relinquish certain equipment over the coming weeks.
Staff who live in RSPCA-owned accommodation have also been told they will need to vacate the properties when their employment ceases, it is understood.
In a newsletter to its members sent last week, Unite said its members’ voices were finally being heard and that the RSPCA had agreed to meet the union.
The union said it would “like to acknowledge the positive step that the society has taken in agreeing to meet with us next week”.
The newsletter said: “Hopefully, both sides will be able to find a way forward to address the differences that exist, to resolve the current dispute and to identify how the society and Unite can rebuild their relationship to work together in a progressive manner for the benefit of us all.”
The union represents about 700 members of the charity’s 1,700-strong workforce.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "We are meeting the union at Acas to discuss points it wishes to raise and rebuilding our relationship to work together positively for the benefit of all employees."