Howls of protest have met plans to cut staff at the long-established Mayhew animal charity in North West London, as Unite the union holds a consultative ballot on whether its members wish to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot with the option to strike.

Unite said that industrial action is a strong possibility, as the bosses press ahead with a so-called ‘rationalisation’ plan of UK operations without consultation which could lead to a 40 per cent reduction in vet nurses, a 50 per cent cut in cleaning hours and a 75 per cent cut in reception staff, as well as a reduction in animal welfare officers. 

This is on top of a pay and recruitment freeze over the last year for the 60-strong UK workforce which has meant that staff levels have dropped drastically at the charity which traces its origins back to 1886.

According to Unite, Mayhew has provided no financial information to the union to support the case for further cuts. They claim that volunteers will be able to pick up the slack of long-standing, experienced animal professionals.

The charity has stopped taking in dogs and cats, and the welfare department has ceased taking requests from the public due to staff shortages.

Unite regional officer Matt Freeman said: “Mayhew is attempting to salami-slice our members' jobs, pay and employment conditions big-time. We will be campaigning strongly against these attacks.

“Staff are overworked and understaffed with some feeling burnt-out, but money is being spent on HR advisors and not core areas, such as community outreach projects, which is why people donate in the first place.

“Unite offered to enter in constructive talks with the employer to help bring clarity to what has been a shoddy process. However, this offer has clearly been rejected in light of management’s decision to proceed without talks – despite assurances we would receive a response.

“We are now asking our members in a consultative ballot this week whether they wish to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot.”

According to the charity’s website, its patron is the Duchess of Sussex and celebrity supporters include actors Joanna Lumley and Sir Tony Robinson, and documentary maker Louis Theroux. 

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards.


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Unite is the leading union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving members' jobs, pay and conditions. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.