Heritage group quashes ‘Coming of Age’ concern

English Heritage’s HR director has played down media claims of rebellion and
discontent among staff over the organisation’s redevelopment programme.

Isobel Hunter said that coverage of growing resentment over the conservation
body’s ‘Coming of Age’ modernisation programme – which cited rows over alleged
reneged pay deals and job losses, and the attempted boycott of the
organisation’s 21st anniversary celebrations – had been misleading.

"We have not reneged on any pay deals," she said. "Our 2003
pay award was valued at 3.72 per cent. We guaranteed a minimum award for
everyone of 2.8 per cent, the rate of inflation, but some lower-paid people
were given increases of up to 8 per cent. And I think getting up to 8 per cent
in the current public sector pay environment is a reasonable pay award."

She said the award was implemented last March, with no comeback from the
unions until now, and that they still had not made a formal pay claim for 2004.

Talks are already under way for this year’s pay deal, HR is involved in the
process and the deal is on schedule to be implemented by 1 August, she said.

Hunter added that there would also be fewer redundancies than had been
implied in reports. "We are going through a restructuring of our Planning
and Development group, which may result in between 10 to 25 job losses out of a
total of 535 staff," she said.

She stated that the organised mass e-mail snub on 1 June of chief executive
Simon Thurley’s Coming of Age conference and celebration invitations, had been
a rather half-hearted affair. Of 1,800 staff, Hunter said just 80 sent the
reply, which reportedly said: ‘I wish to inform you that I will not be
attending and want you to put the money saved into the pay budget’.

The Prospect union, which fears that a minimum of 50 jobs will go, is
seeking a meeting with English Heritage management before new pay talks due to
begin in the next two weeks, to try to seek agreement over the proper
implementation of the redundancy procedures.

By Nadia Williams

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