'Chaos and confusion'

Confidence in RSPCA chief executive draining away as redundancy process 'effectively collapses'

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The redundancy process at the RSPCA has descended into such ‘chaos and confusion’ that chief executive Chris Sherwood needs to reflect on the lack of staff confidence in him, Unite said today (September 23).

Nearly 300 workers at the 196-year-old Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals face the sack ‘in the most challenging labour market conditions for a generation’, despite the charity having £60m in reserves to tide it over the funding gap caused by Covid-19. Four animal centres are also earmarked to close.

Unite claims that the RSPCA’s own HR department has admitted that the situation is ‘catastrophic’ due to unreasonable timescales and demands – and the union warns that the jobs’ axe will have a major impact on frontline animal welfare in England and Wales.

 In a letter to Chris Sherwood, Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Siobhan Endean said, “The redundancy consultation process is leading to chaos and confusion. The individual consultation process has been rushed, poorly coordinated and poorly resourced.

 “The whole process has effectively collapsed. The human resources division has admitted to being in a ‘catastrophic’ situation due to unachievable timescales and unreasonable demands,” she added.

 “I would remind you that the RSPCA refused any form of a voluntary redundancy scheme, despite over 70 individuals expressing an interest in one – 87 per cent of our union members supported Unite’s proposal of a voluntary statutory redundancy programme.”

As an example of the continuing managerial chaos, Unite said that some members, who are on maternity leave, were initially told they were to be made redundant with no offer of an alternative post.

Siobhan Endean went on to write, “At the last joint union negotiating committee meeting the director of finance stated that the existing funding position is good and that the predicted shortfall in fundraising has proved to be unfounded.

 “There is still time to pause, deal with this chaos and reverse some of these redundancies.”

 Unite has made three demands in its letter, including that RSPCA bosses provide members with their detailed scores and the rationale that is being used to justify making them redundant. This is a legal minimum requirement.

The union is also calling on RSPCA to continue to honour the long-standing agreements that allow members of the shared equity property scheme to remain in their homes on retirement or redundancy, as well as to follow Acas guidance and include all full benefits, including pension contributions and any outstanding TOIL, to those members who are being made compulsory redundant with pay in lieu of notice.

 Unite has repeatedly highlighted to the RSPCA the Charity Commission guidance to organisations which sets out the options of utilising reserves, designated funds and permanent endowment assets to address financial difficulties during the current crisis.

In a worrying development, Unite understands that a number of senior directors have chosen this time to leave the charity.

This includes the deputy chief executive, group finance controller and the finance director whose financial predictions were used in part to justify the job cuts.  Also leaving is the director of people and culture, an external consultant who started on the same day in 2018 as the chief executive.

 This suggests that not only is there a lack of confidence in Chris Sherwood from the vast majority of staff, but that this feeling also exists within the executive leadership as well.

By Shaun Noble

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