An occupational therapists body has said that the suggestion it is seeking to make workers redundant to re-employ them on less favourable terms is ‘false and intentionally misleading’.
The Unite union claimed the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT), which is also registered as a union, informed staff of plans to make one in 10 redundant, in what Unite described as a “fire and rehire” bid.
Unite, which represents some RCOT employees but is not a formally recognised union at the organisation, said workers were given just three days to decide whether to accept a “poor” redundancy package or apply for other jobs at the organisation, which it claimed offer worse terms. Those who were unsuccessful in their job applications would receive statutory redundancy pay, Unite said.
Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, said:“A registered union is disgracefully using fire and rehire to attack its own workers. It’s rank hypocrisy from a union that champions workplace wellbeing. The stress that workers are under is cause enough for them to seek therapy themselves. You could hardly make this up.
“The Royal College must immediately scrap this redundancy process and negotiate with Unite. The workers have their union’s full support and we leave all options on the table to support our members.”
‘Fire and rehire’
Those at risk of redundancy include occupational therapists, administration, finance and policy staff.
Unite claimed it is just weeks away from signing a formal union recognition agreement with RCOT.
An RCOT spokesperson said the changes were necessary.
It said in a statement: “We recognise that this is a very difficult situation for colleagues as we carry out necessary reorganisation to how the RCOT operates and delivers for its members. The reorganisation follows established practice and is within a legal framework, recognising the needs of colleagues and offering them support needed at what is a difficult time.
“We haven’t taken these decisions lightly, nor are they easy, but they are necessary. As a member-led organisation we have a duty to ensure that RCOT is best placed to deliver for our members – these changes will enable that.
“We have provided a range of support options for colleagues throughout and remain in constant dialogue with the affected staff. We set the timescales with the aim of reducing the duration of uncertainty.
“A number of new roles have been created at RCOT and staff at risk of potential redundancy have been encouraged to apply for these new roles or to consider taking an enhanced redundancy package. At the end of this change process there will be a net increase in staff headcount to support our plans to do more for our members.”
“Fire and rehire” practices, whereby organisations make staff redundant and then rehire them on a new contract with a less favourable employment package, have long been criticised by unions and MPs, particularly following the P&O Ferries scandal earlier this year.
In March, the government said it would publish a statutory code that would detail how employers should hold fair and transparent consultations on proposed changes to employment terms. This has not yet been published.