RSA comment on discussions with IWGB union on pay and article published in the Observer on 3rd September 2023
Pay discussions between the RSA (the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) and IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) have been ongoing since the union was formally recognised in March 2023.
We are committed to a review of staff pay in September following reforecasting our income and expenditure. This commitment has been communicated on several occasions to all staff and to IWGB.
With that next meeting pending, we are issuing this statement to correct the inaccurate information and highly misleading statements we have seen in an Observer news story published about the RSA yesterday and repeated on social media alongside other misleading accusations. This is the third occasion that we have needed to make corrections of a similar nature.
The RSA is a charity with an exceptional and highly valued staff team. We are seeing terrific collective efforts from everyone to deliver our new charitable mission and increase our income so we can do more on pay. Our growing social impact and external reputation means we are attracting some fantastic new recruits and partners and the RSA’s strategic direction, social impact and staffing position have never been stronger.
We are hugely grateful to all our staff for their ongoing hard work and commitment at this exciting time, especially with the current cost of living backdrop and the requirement for our charity to deliver financial sustainability through a balanced operating budget. This is after spending over £2million of reserves during the pandemic to preserve jobs and support pay. We invested heavily in order that no staff lost their jobs during the pandemic and so that all those furloughed had their pay topped up to 100 per cent. We continue to invest in our people alongside addressing the deficits the charity has run for the past five years.
Since 1 April 2023, in recognition of cost-of-living pressures, we have implemented a new minimum salary for all staff of £25,500 which is well in excess of the London Living Wage. We have also implemented an across-the-board pay increase for all staff, equating to up to 4 per cent for many of our people, and have awarded around half of our more junior team with pay increases well above this minimum pay increase. This was all done within the constraints of financial sustainability and a balanced budget.
The article published in the Observer on 3rd September 2023 makes many highly inaccurate and misleading statements and we are in correspondence with the newspaper and the IWGB union regarding this.
The article makes a wholly inaccurate and misleading claim that RSA executives have seen a 170 per cent increase in pay this year. Over the last year, the charity has filled vacancies at the executive level and our CEO has returned from a government secondment. No executives received an in-role pay increase this year and our CEO has seen no increase in pay since his appointment two years ago. It appears that unreliable data sources have been used and that non-executive salaries have been included in the cost calculations with the express purpose of misleading the public and damaging the reputation of senior management of the RSA.
Staff turnover for this financial year is around 19 per cent, which is not ‘high’ but in fact quite usual for organisations of the RSA’s size and sector.
Our reserves are in the main tied up in fixed assets (e.g. our building and equipment), restricted funds (e.g. grants for a specific purpose) and endowments. Such reserves are not available to cover operating costs including staff salaries. We have rigorously assessed the level of non-restricted reserves the RSA needs to cover its opportunities and risks and have concluded that maintaining current levels is crucial to financial sustainability.
No staff have reported a detriment due to union membership as is suggested in the article. The statements are completely baseless, lack evidence and have the clear objective of damaging the RSA's reputation. We take our professional commitments to our staff very seriously and there are a range of policies in place to safeguard all staff including an RSA-funded, independently facilitated, and anonymous whistle-blowing hotline. There have been no reports to this hotline.
We are extremely disappointed that the IWGB union has chosen this moment to encourage industrial action rather than engaging collaboratively, as requested, in talks with ACAS or returning to collective bargaining conversations in September to which we have already committed.
We are also disappointed that there is continued publication of inaccurate and misleading information about our charity in the public domain. The unsubstantiated and personalised attacks on RSA senior management, baseless claims and deceptive information are not in the interests of harmonious industrial relations or the wellbeing of our staff team.
IWGB’s decision to push for industrial action at this moment, alongside supporting the sharing of inaccurate and misleading information in the media, seems to be motivated by disrupting our charitable work at a time of huge excitement and opportunity and using our good name to gain publicity for themselves rather than protecting the welfare of our people or the interests of our charity. This is deeply regrettable.
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