Up to 200 jobs at risk in RNIB restructure, union warns

10 February 2017 by Rebecca Cooney ,  Third Sector

The potential job losses are part of moves to merge Action for Blind People into the RNIB

Staff are being consulted on proposed new structures for the charity, which employs about 2,600 people.

The RNIB did not confirm the number of potential job losses but said merging Action for Blind People into the RNIB would simplify the organisation’s structure and said the charity’s approach would remain person-centred, despite plans to expand its call-centre services. RNIB has worked in a formal partnership with Action for Blind People since 2009.

Mike Eatwell, regional officer for the Uniteunion, told Third Sector: "There is currently a consultation arising from a reorganisation at the RNIB. We understand that there is a potential of 200 jobs at risk.

"However, the expectation is that, through redeployment and non-replacement, the actual number of redundancies should be significantly less than that figure."

He said Unite would be supporting its members and working hard to reduce the number of jobs under threat.

Sally Harvey, chief executive of RNIB, said in a statement: "Like any charity we have to make careful decisions to ensure our long-term sustainability. These are challenging times and we have to keep a careful watch of where we are spending our money to make the most of the resources we have."

She said the changes proposed to staff would ensure the charity remained agile and able to deliver services that beneficiaries had requested.

"Sadly, as part of these changes to the way we work, there may be job losses," she said.

"We are working closely with the unions to ensure that the jobs losses are minimal and that people are redeployed where appropriate." 

Harvey said the charity’s approach "will remain wholly person-centred" but would "enable thousands more people affected by sight loss to have access to the expertise and support they need" through an expansion of the charity’s digital and telephone-based service.

This would "complement face-to-face services" already delivered by the RNIB, she said. 

When asked by Third Sector whether the changes would affect the charity’s current requirement that 75 per cent of its trustees should be blind or partially sighted, she said the requirement would remain unchanged.

Since July 2014, Action for Blind People has operated as a subsidiary of RNIB, with its own branding.

Harvey said: "To make things clearer and easier to understand for our customers we're simplifying our group structure to have Action for Blind People merge into RNIB as one charity working under the RNIB name."

The relationship between RNIB and Action for Blind People has raised concerns in the past. In 2015, when the RNIB announced plans move a total of 438 staff to Action for Blind People, the union Unison accused the RNIB of not "being straight" with employees over why the move was taking place.

At the time, the RNIB told Third Sector the rationale for the transfer was to bring all the regional teams responsible for service delivery into one place under the same structure and direction.