Royal Society of Arts found guilty of breaking employment law for first time in 270 years

Wed, Nov 8, 2023, 9:50 AM
  • The Central London Employment Tribunal has ruled that the RSA broke employment law by unfairly dismissing an employee for trade union activity
  • Ruth Hannan, former head of Policy and Participation and IWGB member, was illegally fired after speaking to the press in October 2022
  • Employment Judge Codd ruled that the RSA had breached Section 152 of TULRCA 1992, the first time the organisation has broken trade union law in its 270 year history

Wednesday 1 November: The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) has been found guilty of breaking employment law after unfairly firing employee Ruth Hannan for participating in trade union activity. The ruling was given by Employment Judge Codd at the Central London Employment Tribunal on 12 October 2023.

Speaking to The Observer in an article published on 9 October 2022, Hannan accused the RSA of being “hypocritical” and “not living [its] values” under the leadership of CEO Andy Haldane. She was fired the next day for her comments. The article came in the context of staff at the RSA seeking trade union recognition for their chosen union, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

IWGB members at the RSA were denied voluntary union recognition three times by Haldane and senior management, and the union was not recognised at the time of Hannan’s dismissal. Since then, the IWGB has achieved union recognition via a statutory vote.

Since Andy Haldane, former Chief Economist at the Bank of England, took over as CEO of the RSA in March 2022, staff at the organisation have accused Haldane and senior management of anti-union tactics and creating a toxic working environment.

RSA staff are currently in the midst of a pay dispute, and have been on strike for the first time in the organisation’s history in recent months.

In a statement published on 1 November 2023, the IWGB said “It has become clear that the RSA under Andy Haldane’s leadership does not resemble the historic, progressive organisation that both staff and fellows hold in such high esteem.

Ruth’s legal victory has only strengthened our members’ resolve to win the ongoing pay dispute, and has given them confidence and energy to transform the RSA into an organisation that respects and values their work.”

In their own statement, union members at the RSA said "Ruth’s victory has strengthened our resolve to continue pushing not only for fair pay, but to also restore the RSA as a good and safe place to work, something it has not been for staff over the last year under Andy Haldane’s leadership."

Ruth Hannan said “I feel a deep sense of relief at the ruling. Knowing that my reputation and my professionalism had been tarnished was incredibly painful. To be able to do this one small thing that will help other workers feel safer in their fight to have stronger rights in the workplace is worth the stress I’ve endured.”

For more information, please contact:

Jake Thomas, Press and Communications Officer

+447446625784 / jakethomas@iwgb.co.uk

- ENDS -

- Written Employment Tribunal Decision

- IWGB and RSA Union full statements

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