Staff at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have voted by a large majority for strike action, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 20 February).

Unite said that its members had voted by 73 per cent to strike over the management’s arbitrary imposition of new ‘performance pay’ contracts.

The union said that it would be announcing strike dates in the near future – and called for the RSPCA management to hold last-ditch talks, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, to avert strike action.

Unite is the only union recognised at the UK’s leading animal charity, founded in 1824.

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 regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “Our members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in protest at the arbitrary imposition of new ‘performance pay’ contracts without a proper consultation process. These new contracts are very detrimental to our members.

“Certain members of the management team have adopted a bullying attitude to staff in a bid to get them to sign the new contract before the deadline of 31 March – such behaviour is deplorable. 

“We will be announcing strike dates in the near future – but we urge the management to take up our offer of Acas-brokered talks to avert industrial action.

“Unite would like to make crystal clear to the public that so generously fund the RSPCA that our members will be making the welfare and care of animals their top priority during the industrial action.” 

Unite has 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.

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


Notes to editors:

The full text of the open letter:

Unite said the RSPCA’s own staff engagement survey last 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]

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