Action for Children unions ballot for industrial action in pay dispute

High-handed action by bosses over pay at the charity Action for Children has prompted Unite and UNISON to ballot their members for industrial action.

The unions said that management intends to impose a one per cent pay award for 2015/16, with no cost of living rise for 40 per cent of the 5,000 strong workforce. They also intend to remove contractual pay increments for new starters, refuse to pay the UK living wage of £8.25 (£9.40 in London) and cut mileage rates.

Both unions’ ballots for industrial action short of a strike and/or strike action open on Tuesday 26 January and close on Tuesday 16 February.

The charity’s chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead has refused the unions’ request to involve the conciliation service Acas to resolve the dispute and has stated his intention to impose the pay offer overwhelmingly rejected by the joint union membership in consultative ballots.

While squeezing the pay of the workforce, the number of senior executives at the charity earning over £70,000 a year increased from 16 to 21, and there is now an additional member of the management team on £120,000.

The unions said that in the last three years Action for Children has made an average surplus (profit) of £5.4m each year, while it would have cost about £2m a year to have given each member of staff a cost of living pay rise in line with inflation.

UNISON national voluntary sector officer Simon Watson said: “The dedicated staff who work for Action for Children are without doubt its best resource. Every year they help thousands of vulnerable families in communities up and down the country.

“Action for Children claims that it is strapped for cash, yet it has managed to find the money to increase the number of its highest paid managers. Meanwhile staff haven’t had a pay rise in six years.

“The decision to move to a ballot for action is always a reluctant one, but despite over a year of negotiations, the charity still refuses to see sense. As a result many employees are being forced into extreme hardship. Some are having to use the same food banks as the families they are trying to help. It’s still not too late to prevent action, and we hope the charity uses the coming weeks to think carefully about its next steps.”

Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Sally Kosky said: “What we have here is an all too common case of a profitable organisation, with highly paid executives, unwilling to give a decent pay rise to our members. Average pay of the workforce has fallen in real terms by 52 per cent since 2010/11.

“The management is behaving in a high-handed manner trying to bulldoze a wholly inadequate pay offer onto our members and point blank refusing to involve Acas in the dispute. Just because people work for a charity they don’t deserve the prospect of poverty wages.

“The organisation has a healthy surplus and some of these reserves should be used to fairly reward its hard-working staff.”

Notes to editors:
Financial information is taken from Action for Children accounts “net movement in funds”.
For more information please contact:
UNISON: Liz Chinchen on 0207 121 5463 or 07778 158175
Unite: Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869