Strike action looms at the RSPCA after Acas talks fail

The union Unite is in dispute with the charity over new staff contracts and what it describes as a two-year pay freeze and overtime reductions

RSPCA headquarters
RSPCA headquarters

Union members at the RSPCA are set to go on strike after talks to settle a long-running dispute over new staff contracts broke down.

Unite and RSPCA officials met at the conciliation service Acas on Tuesday in a bid to break the deadlock over the introduction by the charity of a new 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 contracts by 31 March have been told they will be dismissed.

The charity says the new contracts are being introduced out of financial necessity.

The union, which represents about 700 members of the charity’s 1,700-strong workforce, announced last month that it had secured a mandate for a strike after 73 per cent of those who took part in the ballot voted in favour of industrial action.

Earlier this week, the two sides confirmed they had agreed to meet at Acas, but the talks broke down, Unite said on Wednesday.

Jesika Parmar, regional officer at Unite, said the union had no alternative but to announce strike dates by the weekend.

“The management barely moved during the day of Acas-brokered talks, which, in retrospect, appear to have been a shallow manoeuvring tactic to run down the clock to the 31 March deadline for signing the new detrimental contracts,” she said.

“During the strike days, we want to reassure the people who give so generously to the charity that the welfare of the animals in our members’ care will be their top priority.

“Even at this eleventh hour, we urge the RSPCA to take the road of conciliation, not confrontation, and resume negotiations in a constructive frame of mind.”

An RSPCA spokeswoman said in a statement that the charity was extremely disappointed the Acas talks were unsuccessful.

“We went into the talks with an open mind and agreed to work with Unite on a whole raft of issues, from performance management and workplace policies to future pay awards and employee wellbeing,” she said.

“However, its demand that we postpone implementation of new contracts, when 75 per cent of employees have now signed, and pay an increment in April that they know is unaffordable, meant the gap between us was just too big.”

The spokeswoman said the charity offered a further meeting on Monday, which had been declined by Unite, but the society hoped the two sides would be able to return to the negotiating table for further discussions.

“The change to our pay-and-reward framework is just one of a series of initiatives designed to protect jobs and services, and has been taken out of necessity, not choice,” she said.

“We simply cannot afford to continue running a large deficit that places the long-term viability of our organisation and the vital animal welfare services at risk.”

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