Leading children’s charity faces strike action

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Sir Tony Hawkhead

​Unions angry at senior management wage increases while staff get minimal cost of living increase - if any  

15th February 2016 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Strike action is looming at one of the country’s biggest children’s charities.

An ongoing pay dispute with Action for Children’s (AfC) 3,500 staff – 600 of whom are based in Scotland – has led to trade unions Unite and Unison balloting staff asking what action they should take.

The results of the ballot are due this week with options for strike action and withdrawal of labour.

The dispute hinges on the charity awarding a 1% cost of living award to some staff while 40% will get nothing at all, according to the unions.

They are also accusing AfC of stopping wage increments to new recruits, cutting mileage rates, and refusing to guarantee the voluntary living wage of £8.25 an hour.

AfC, which has been active for over 60 years in Scotland, runs 84 services north of the border supporting over 8,000 children.

While the unions have accepted that the minimal pay awards are a consequence of local and central government cuts, they have reacted angrily to continued pay increases for senior managers.

Simon Watson, Unison’s national officer for the voluntary sector, said he sympathised with charities facing government cuts but said it could not justify why AfC has found money for senior managers’ pay increases and even recruiting more senior staff. 

Despite over a year of negotiations the charity still refuses to see sense - Simon Watson

"Action for Children claims 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 have to use the same foodbanks 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."

Sally Kosky, Unite national officer for the not-for-profit sector, said the average pay for staff at Action for Children had fallen by 52% in real terms since 2010/11.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, AfC chief executive, said: “The role that trade unions represent in the workplace is highly regarded by Action for Children.

“Throughout the whole extended process during which we have been in discussion with the unions, we have made every effort to reach an agreement.

“In the current operating climate, Action for Children has considered the various affordable possibilities available to it.

“The board and senior management agreed that the best way forward, with the limited budget available, was to use it for those members of staff who would otherwise receive almost nothing.

“Other staff would still receive their standard increment as they progress within their salary band.”

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