Staff at the RSA win statutory union recognition represented by the IWGB as ballot returns 85% majority

Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 10:00 AM
  • The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) have announced that a recent ballot, run independently by the Central Arbitration Committee returned a 85% majority of voters in support of recognition from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) for the first time in the organisation’s 268 year history.
  • Previous to applying for statutory recognition, RSA staff represented by the IWGB had their voluntary recognition request denied 3 times, despite the RSA awarding IWGB a “Future of Work Award” in 2019.
  • As reported by the Observer and other sector press, staff faced obstructive behaviour from RSA management, including one staff being dismissed and staff being threatened over talking about the union publicly.

Wednesday 30 November: Staff at the RSA, who have unionised with the IWGB, have secured a statutory recognition agreement through the Central Arbitration Committee. 77 out of the 90 members of the proposed bargaining unit turned out to vote, with 85% of voters voting in favour of recognition.

This success comes after voluntary recognition requests from staff represented by the IWGB were rejected on three occasions, despite the RSA having awarded IWGB a “Future of Work Award” in 2019, praising the union for being “the first trade union to score major successes for gig workers in the UK, through public campaigning and legal cases”.

Staff were met with obstructive behaviour from RSA management after going public with their campaign for union recognition, including one member of staff dismissed during their notice period, and other employees being threatened over talking publicly about unionising.

Staff hope that this result can set a precedent in the charity sector, and while RSA management has stated several times the belief that unionisation is not fit for the charity sector, staff believe that unionisation is essential in charities to ensure good working conditions, staff voice and social impact.

The bargaining unit hope to push for pay increases that match the cost of living crisis, after only receiving an increase of 1.5% in the last 3 years, an increase in pension contributions after they were slashed to 5.5% during the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussions about how to end the use of precarious fixed term and zero hour contracts at the RSA. The recognised bargaining unit will also continue to push for voluntary recognition of the Heads of Teams who were excluded from the recognition process.

James*, RSA staff and IWGB member says, “Staff are overjoyed by the results of the ballot. We have shown time and time again how this process has been democratic and open from the beginning and the results prove it once and for all. Members have been resilient through challenging times, also with the hope that this proves to be a win for the wider charity sector. Despite being told otherwise, we believe unions are essential for charities. We are now excited to use recognition to make the RSA a better place to work, and work for voluntary recognition of our Heads of Teams who have been excluded from our bargaining unit."

Alex Marshall, IWGB President says, “Despite the best efforts of CEO Andy Haldane to prevent a recognition agreement and undermine members, putting both his own reputation and the reputation of the RSA on the line, we are pleased to see democratic processes run their course and allow the majority to use their voice to secure their seat at the table. The IWGB is proud to represent workers in charities across the country, workers who deeply care about their jobs and want to create and maintain progressive and democratic workplaces that support the organisations they care so much about. We hope this agreement will set a precedent for other workers in the charity sector to build confidence, organise at work and win better conditions.”

*Not their real name, requested to remain anonymous.

Interviews are available on request.

For more information, please contact:

Marienna Pope Weidemann, Head of Communications


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