The Duke of Edinburgh Award’s (DofE) ‘fire and rehire’ plans to scrap its car fleet and force regional operations workers to buy their own has been slammed by Unite.
The Royal charity has told the workers, who travel to schools, colleges, youth groups, young offender institutions, fostering agencies and hospitals across the UK, that they will be provided with a £4,750 one off payment to purchase their own work vehicle.
The workers’ contracts will be terminated from March 3 and if they do not sign new ones stating the new transport terms, they will lose their job.
Unite has called on DofE trustee, the Earl of Wessex Prince Edward, whose late father, the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, established the charity in 1956.
Unite regional officer Janet Nobbs said, “The majority of impacted staff are on modest incomes of less than £28,000 and have been absolutely sideswiped by the news that they will now have to shell out potentially thousands of pounds just to keep their job. Unite calls on Prince Edward to intervene on behalf of these workers.
“Even the cheapest new car costs more than £10,000 and a model suitable for covering the long distances required for the job are considerably more than that,” she added. “These moves are totally unreasonable, and it is shameful that the charity’s leadership is resorting to fire and rehire to force them through.”
The union also accused the charity of hypocrisy for promoting climate responsibility while putting forward plans that would make its own carbon footprint larger.
The DofE website states that ‘we all need to do our bit when it comes to fighting climate change’, however workers would be unlikely to afford a hybrid or electric vehicle to reduce Co2 emissions with the £4,750 payment.
Nobbs continued, “Not only is The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards being hypocritical in terms of its professed climate stance, but it is also shutting the door on future applicants from poor or ethnic minority backgrounds, who are less likely to own a car.
“This whole process is an unjustified cost cutting exercise. Although the pandemic has hit many charities, the latest Duke of Edinburgh’s Award financial report states it ended the 2021 financial year in a strong position with net assets of £26.5 million, an increase of £2.8 million from the previous year,” she went on to say.
“DofE leaders also stated the organisation was in an improved financial position in December 2021 and announced that every full-time employee would receive a £1,000 bonus. That bonus is small consolation to staff facing a huge car bill at a time when inflation is skyrocketing.”
By Ryan Fletcher