Union recognition statement - RSA press & media - RSA

Union recognition statement

Corporate communications

The RSA and the IWGB union have been engaged in a statutory recognition process, which is being administered by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). The statement and text below provide clarity on the RSA’s position and reinforces how we will always continue to act according to our values and to maintain our reputation, including by ensuring a representative and democratic staff voice.

Update: Monday 15 May 2023

We are deeply committed to the wellbeing of our exceptional staff team. This requires us to safeguard the financial future of the RSA.

After spending over £2 million of reserves during the pandemic to preserve jobs and support pay, financial sustainability now requires the RSA to run a balanced operating budget. Consistent with that, the RSA has made a pay offer for the financial year 2023-24 to the bargaining unit (represented for pay bargaining by IWGB) that is both equitable and affordable. The executive team have been excluded from receiving an across-the-board pay increase.

We commit to review all salaries again in September in line with our financial position at that time. We very much hope that staff in the bargaining unit will accept the pay offer through a democratic process.

Update: Thursday 9 March 2023

IWGB is now the recognised Trade Union for staff below Heads of Team level, excluding the HR team, for statutory collective bargaining which covers pay, hours and holidays. We have supplied a detailed proposal for this to IWGB which is in line with the statutory instrument from the CAC.

Despite our best efforts and requests to IWGB to engage directly in conversation and mediation, including our suggestion for ACAS support, which IWGB has not taken up, an agreement has not yet been reached.

We have conducted our work with IWGB properly and in good faith at every stage and we would urge them to refrain from public statements that could damage staff morale and the RSA’s reputation whilst we are aiming to establish a constructive relationship. This behaviour is not consistent with good industrial relations and is contrary to the values of the RSA and its charitable purposes.

RSA staff are a highly skilled and highly valued group of people, and we have written to the CAC to ask for support to reach an open and speedy resolution in the best interests of staff and the RSA as a whole. 

Update: Thursday 2 March 2023

The RSA has an exceptional and highly valued team of professionals, committed to our refreshed mission.

IWGB is now the recognised Trade Union for staff below Heads of Team level, excluding the HR team, for statutory collective bargaining which covers pay, hours and holidays.  

Our aim is to establish without delay a reasonable method for statutory collective bargaining, including a schedule of meetings and elected staff representatives.  

IWGB has sent a proposal for a collective bargaining method, which we have responded to in detail.   

We have suggested to IWGB that ACAS and the CAC could support us to arrive at a mutually agreeable collective bargaining method, if necessary.  

Once an agreed method is in place, we will be able to discuss the IWGB's submitted pay claim. We have already shared the claim with Trustees and the Committees who recommend pay decisions, as we make our plans for the coming financial year.  

Update: Monday 6 February 2023

2023 is an exciting year for the RSA as we further plans to deliver our Design for Life strategy. We have an exceptional group of staff who care deeply about our work, our heritage and our reputation and are crucial to delivering our regenerative mission to enable people, place and the planet to flourish.

The RSA management team remains committed to working with IWGB in good faith to agree an appropriate method of statutory collective bargaining for pay, hours and holidays for staff in the bargaining unit.

We have been transparent throughout that in the event of statutory union recognition of IWGB, collective bargaining would focus on matters covered by statute. This is because there are already a wide range of staff information and consultation forums and feedback processes in place to cover other issues important to all our people across the broad diversity of their roles.

RSA management await a starter proposal from IWGB for a collective bargaining method and once this has been received, look forward to meeting with the union to finalise arrangements.

IWGB have submitted a pay claim which is being carefully considered. This will be discussed with the union once the method for collective bargaining has been agreed.

Some individuals in IWGB and 'The RSA Union' (who are the same group) are regrettably making misleading and inaccurate claims on social media regarding the ongoing process. The RSA management team have requested that they desist in the interests of good industrial relations and for the wellbeing of our people, and have contacted ACAS for support.  

Update: Monday 28 November 2022

We have received the result of the independently run ballot regarding statutory trade union recognition at the RSA for the 'bargaining unit' which is: staff including casual staff but excluding heads of teams, the HR team and staff at director level and above.  This is a group comprising around 90 people.   

The result is that IWGB will now have exclusive collective bargaining rights for pay, holidays and hours for all staff in the bargaining unit.  RSA management will now work with the IWGB to ensure appropriate mechanisms are put in place for effective collective bargaining.  

We work with an exceptional group of people at the RSA who care passionately about our work, reputation and heritage and we anticipate that everyone will now move forward positively together.

Update: Friday 18 November 2022

A postal, independently administered secret ballot of all staff in the 'bargaining unit' is taking place between 14 and 25 November 2022. The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) determined that a ballot must take place as there was insufficient evidence to confirm that the majority of staff would be in support of trade union recognition.
The ballot will determine whether IWGB will be granted statutory trade union recognition for the 'Bargaining Unit' - which has been agreed between IWGB and the RSA as:

‘All staff, including casual staff (but only those who are engaged by the employer as employees) and excluding Heads of Teams, the HR team (HRBP and HR Coordinator) and Staff at Director level and above.’

The IWGB union has had access to RSA House to meet with workers in the bargaining unit on 1st and 10th November. RSA management made arrangements to ensure IWGB could run effective meetings with staff, including online participation of those not based in London.
RSA senior management continue to communicate with their valued and exceptional staff team.

The Observer article that appeared on Sunday 9 October 2022 and its follow-up on Sunday 16 about the ongoing application for recognition by the IWGB union contained several inaccurate and misleading claims. 

Update: Monday 17 October 2022

"As we have said throughout, our strongly held view, consistent with our values and our history, is that a truly representative, democratically elected staff body is the right way to secure staff voice. We have acted throughout this process in ways to ensure this outcome.

"We have an exceptional group of staff who care passionately about our work, reputation and heritage and we are grateful for their ongoing commitment to our compelling societal mission. We will be holding a series of open sessions this week (w/c 17 October 2022), to provide our people with clarity and support.

"In line with the statutory process underway, there will be a secret ballot about statutory union recognition in the coming weeks administered via the CAC and we respect their code regarding fair practices during this process. So, as we have also said throughout, it would be inappropriate for the RSA to comment further at this stage, beyond saying we disagree strongly with the allegations made and are corresponding with IWGB to this effect."

Original post: Thursday 13 October 2022 (edited to remove repetition)

IWGB has applied for voluntary trade union recognition on three occasions this year, beginning in March – to represent all staff below senior management for the purposes of collective bargaining. On each occasion the RSA has sought a better understanding of the reasons for the request – for instance, how IWGB would ensure democratic representation for all staff whether union members or not, and the union’s experience in working with similar staff groups to the RSA’s.

IWGB’s correspondence has failed to provide assurance on these issues, including how the interests of non-union staff would be recognised and what workplace issues they wished to be addressed. There have also been repeated incidences of breaches of confidentiality and inaccurate information being presented. In the interests of its staff as a whole and the RSA as a charitable organisation, these factors made it impossible for the RSA to recommend voluntary recognition to RSA Trustees. 

IWGB is now seeking statutory union recognition and the RSA is actively engaged in this process. The RSA is not refusing to recognise IWGB, but we are insisting that there is a proper process for recognition so that all staff, whether they are union members or not, have their democratic rights represented.

Within the Observer article, there were claims there is no staff voice at the RSA. Staff themselves decided voluntarily to stop the previous staff body representing all RSA staff. The RSA’s strongly held view is that a truly representative, democratically elected staff body is the right way to secure staff voice. Staff are already actively engaged in every aspect of the RSA’s work through a range of channels.  

In summary

  • The RSA is committed to running an open and inclusive organisation in which the voices and interests of all its stakeholders are appropriately and democratically represented, including staff, Fellows, and the wider RSA community.
  • IWGB has not demonstrated an understanding of the business or the organisation of the RSA, despite our repeated attempts to obtain relevant information from them and have not acted in line with the RSA’s values. This made it impossible for us to recommend voluntary recognition.
  • The RSA staff team takes pride in their organisation and works hard to build its reputation. The RSA will remain true to our values, as we always have; will protect our staff and our reputation, as we always will; and will continue to go from strength to strength in our mission of improving society, driven by the efforts of staff, Fellows, and the RSA’s wider community.