RSPCA bosses have been accused of using Covid-19 as an excuse to sack 279 workers as part of a jobs’ cull strategy that predates the pandemic, Unite, said today (August 6).
Talks between Unite and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) chief executive Chris Sherwood today saw the union repeat its call for the consultation period, ending today, to be extended so that counter-proposals can be fully considered.
Unite said that the RSPCA should be using its £60 million in reserves to cushion the charity, founded in 1824, through the pandemic and safeguard jobs.
The cutbacks include the proposed closure of four animal centres: Lockwood Equine Centre and South Godstone Animal Centre (both in Surrey); Southall Cattery and Clinic; and Putney Animal Hospital with the loss of 84 jobs.
More than 100 frontline officers within the charity’s inspector division are set to lose their jobs by the end September. Unite strongly contests the data and rationale on which such a large number of the redundancies are being based.
Originally, the charity wanted to cut more than 300 jobs, but strong campaigning by Unite saw 28 posts reinstated.
Unite regional officer Terry Abbott said, “Our aim is to safeguard jobs at the RSPCA and the future of this much-loved organisation.
“The potential loss of so many frontline staff and animal welfare services is a huge shock and the vast majority of our members believe that Covid-19 is being used as a woeful excuse to implement cost-cutting measures that predate the pandemic,” he added.
“If that’s the case, it is shameful, given that the RSPCA has £60 million in reserves that provides a cushion to safeguard animal welfare services and jobs during this national emergency.”
“The RSPCA needs to pause and reflect. It is vital that all avenues of support are fully exhausted before the RSPCA makes severe cuts to jobs and animal welfare provision causing poverty, unemployment and, in some cases, the prospect of homelessness for our members.
The consultation period, therefore, needs to be extended. The proposed redundancy selection processes are themselves subjective, open to challenge and potentially unfair.
“As a minimum, we are calling on the RSPCA to offer a voluntary redundancy scheme to reduce the number of compulsory job losses.”
Unite has 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.
Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Siobhan Endean added, “The next steps will be to generate public awareness of the threat to animal welfare services and the job security of vital and highly skilled employees, who, if sacked, would find it difficult to gain suitable alternative employment at this time.
“Unite will be writing to Westminster MPs and assembly members in Wales to ask them to meet our union reps to save jobs and join our call on the government for a rescue package for animal welfare charities.”
By Shaun Noble