Response to recent allegations regarding pay and strike action - RSA

Response to recent allegations regarding pay and strike action

Corporate communications

A response to recent allegations made about the RSA with regards to pay and RSA Union strike action. 

Over recent days, several false or misleading allegations about the RSA have been made in the media and on social media about strike action planned by IWGB union members on 19 and 21 September. We believe these allegations have been made as an attempt to seriously damage the RSA and its senior management's reputation at a time of great excitement for the charity as our new Design for Life mission gathers increasing momentum. As we have said throughout, we will return to collective bargaining in September once we have some more certainty on our financial outlook.

Allegation: The RSA has increased salaries for its executive staff by 170% between 2022 and 2023, from £359K to £976K, while refusing reasonable pay increases for the vast majority of other staff.

Fact: Our 2023 Impact Report includes the following sentence on page 61: "The cost of key management personnel, defined as members of the Leadership Team, including employer's national insurance and pension contributions by the RSA was £976k (2022: £359k)." This has been used in a deliberately misleading way and the truth is the 2022 figure relates to three people, while the 2023 figure refers to 10 people. Therefore, the increase was simply due to the inclusion of more individuals who fell under the definition of "key management personnel" in the second year (with roles referred to as 'Directors' not included in 2022 but included in 2023). In fact, the Leadership team received no across-the-board pay increase this year and the CEO has had no pay rise since joining in September 2021.

Allegation: 93% of RSA staff voted in favour to strike.

Fact: Of the total RSA staff team of 111 people on 2 September, around 85 people were represented within the IWGB bargaining unit. Within this bargaining unit, 38 people were members of the IWGB with 30 people voting when balloted for strike action and 28 voting to strike. Therefore, just under a quarter of RSA staff have voted to strike.

Allegation: The RSA is ‘sitting on’ free reserves of £32m which can easily be used for increasing staff salaries.

Fact: Like all charities, the vast majority of the RSA’s reserves are restricted in what they can be used for; for example, some funds are tied up in fixed assets such as our building and others are restricted funds such as grants for specific purposes and endowments. We comply with guidance from the Charity Commission on spending our reserves and as demonstrated during Covid, must have regard not only to our current income and costs but also risks we may face and an uncertain economic outlook. The RSA has assessed rigorously the level of unrestricted reserves necessary to insure against the risks we face. On that basis, we believe strongly that it would be fiscally imprudent to deploy reserves for ongoing operating costs such as pay increases because we could not guarantee we would have the income to pay for those increases in future years and it risks putting the charity in a financially unsustainable position in a short space of time.

Allegation: The RSA has unfairly imposed an insufficient pay rise during the cost-of-living crisis, whilst awarding senior management bumper salary increases.

Fact: We care about our staff deeply and are very mindful of the consequences people face with the current economic situation. As such, on 1 April, we awarded an across-the-board salary increase of at least £1,000 for all staff below director level. Around 50% of staff in the bargaining unit represented by IWGB union have actually seen an average actual pay increase of £3,619 in the period 1 April 2022 to 1 July 2023 for a variety of reasons including high performance and increased responsibility. Our minimum salary for all staff has been increased to £25,500 which is well in excess of the London Living Wage.

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