A devastating critique of the managerial style at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has been published by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union.

In an open letter to the RSPCA’s chief executive Chris Sherwood, Unite said that recent talks over pay and new contracts were ‘deliberately restrictive, disingenuous and designed to fail’.

Hundreds of workers are currently voting in a consultative ballot designed to test the temperature on whether to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot. The ballot closes on Thursday 5 December.

Unite said the crux of the dispute is management’s proposals to replace the recently negotiated incremental pay scheme with a performance pay arrangement which could exacerbate plummeting staff morale in an organisation where bullying has been endemic.

Unite said, under the proposals, staff allowances, especially standby payments, will be reduced by 50 per cent. For example, an inspector will see an annual average reduction in their salary of at least £2,000 and potentially as high as £4,000. Other front line, animal and wildlife centre staff face similar deductions.

The union said that the RSPCA’s plans were ‘amongst the most aggressive set of proposals ever seen by Unite’.  It had never seen such a document in the charitable sector before.

Unite has highlighted the bullying that is rife at the UK’s leading animal charity, founded in 1824, which, it says, ‘originates from the very top’.

In the letter, Unite said: “It has to be stated that on more than one occasion, off the record veiled threats were made by certain senior managers towards the union representatives present. This is simply not acceptable and evidence of a wider cultural problem that exists within our charity.”

Unite called on Chris Sherwood to establish another 45-day consultation period for genuine talks to take place. Unite said it was not ‘an inconvenient irritant that can be ignored, ridden over and side-lined’. 

Unite regional officer Jesika Parmer said: “This open letter is a devastating critique that shows a management that has walked into a cul de sac of its own making. Now is the time for a managerial U-turn and for genuine negotiations to take place.”


Notes to editors:

The full text of the open letter can be seen in the link below


Unite said the RSPCA’s own staff engagement survey this summer revealed that 31 per cent of the 1,700-strong workforce had either been bullied directly or witnessed such behaviour.

The union said that the management at the Horsham HQ was using the relatively modest operational deficit projected for 2019/2020 as an excuse to introduce these salami-slicing measures on employment conditions; especially given that income from donations is running at £140 million a year and is reinforced by healthy reserves.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065
Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.