Union members at the RSPCA are to be consulted on whether to conduct a ballot on industrial action over proposed changes to pay and conditions at the charity.
The consultation with members of the trade union Unite at the charity will run until 5 December and is designed to "test the temperature" on a full-scale ballot.
The consultation comes after the RSPCA announced plans to introduce performance-related pay for salary increments for all of the RSPCA’s 1,700 staff members.
Third Sector understands staff will be dismissed from the charity if they do not sign the new contracts by 31 March next year.
Unite said the charity’s proposals could see staff allowances cut by 50 per cent, with an inspector losing on average between £2,000 and £4,000 a year as a result.
The charity said the proposals had been made because it was facing challenging financial times and had to act to bring costs in line with income.
Earlier this week the union said talks with the charity about the changes had broken down.
The union said yesterday that a consultative ballot would therefore take place, which if successful could lead to a full-scale ballot of members on industrial action.
A Unite spokesman said possible industrial action could include a ban on overtime or a work to rule, whereby staff refuse to do work outside the organisation’s rules and regulations and strictly abide by contractual requirements.
There have recently been full-scale industrial ballots at Amnesty International and St Mungo’s, both of which failed to meet the voting threshold required to be considered legitimate.
Jesika Parmer, regional officer at Unite, said: "The management makes a great deal of the organisation’s financial difficulties and there are currently a number of major infrastructure projects that are millions of pounds over budget.
"However, it is simply not acceptable that front-line staff bear the financial pain for catastrophic mistakes made by senior project managers. According to the society’s own data, the number of senior managers has doubled since 2014 to a total of 37, yet the debt has grown."
Parmer said the ballot offered the RSPCA’s management a "window of opportunity" to re-enter constructive negotiations with the union.
A statement from the RSPCA said: "Throughout this process employees have been reassured that current base pay is not affected and the proposals regarding allowances and increments will replace a framework which is simply not financially sustainable.
"We have listened closely to feedback from the union and staff, the majority of whom are not represented by the union, and have made a number of changes based on this.
"The society has consistently stressed that it has no intention of making any changes to employee policies such as sick pay going forward."