Oxfam jobs’ axe threatens fight against global poverty, says Unite

The threat of hundreds of job losses at Oxfam, after funding has nosedived due to coronavirus, was described this evening (Wednesday 3 June) as ‘a tragedy in the fight against global poverty’ by Unite, Britain and Ireland largest union.

Oxfam was due to start the 45-day consultation process on redundancies at its Oxford headquarters today when it is believed that a third of the 800 staff could be at risk.

The job losses will also include Oxfam offices in Scotland, Wales, Manchester and Newcastle, as well as the specialist warehouse in Bicester which supplies such vital equipment as water tanks and the Batley site in Yorkshire where second hand clothes are recycled.

The job losses will be across the whole workforce including those delivering programmes in such war-torn countries as Yemen, fundraisers and campaigners.

Unite said that the coronavirus funding crisis was the last straw in a series of poor management decisions in recent years, which has been compounded by losses running at an estimated £5 million a month as more than 600 of its charity shops are closed.

Unite, which has about 400 members at the charity founded in 1942, called for a voluntary redundancy programme to be implemented, rather than swingeing compulsory job losses.

Unite renewed its call for the government to be more generous in its support generally for the not for profit sector which, it says, needs a £4 billion support package. So far, ministers have provided £750 million in April with the promise of a further £150 million from bank accounts lying dormant.

Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “The threatened job losses at Oxfam are a tragedy in the global fight against poverty. Many people don’t realise the extent that Oxfam is a world leader in public health, with dedicated staff who risked their lives to defeat the Ebola outbreaks.  

“Without the necessary funding, Oxfam won’t be unable to expand its desperately needed coronavirus work to save thousands of lives across the world. 

“Unfortunately, despite the ground breaking work over 70 years that Oxfam has done, our members have lost confidence in senior management. The financial crisis due to Covid-19 has been exacerbated by mismanagement over recent years.   

“Oxfam’s directors have refused our requests to open a voluntary redundancy register; to furlough all staff who were made redundant in the last few months; or suspend the redundancy consultation during furlough. Oxfam should not be making redundancies while it can still use funding from the job retention scheme (JRS) to pay for 80 per cent of wages.

Yet, they decided to keep on two directors who had already resigned and are advertising externally for roles that could be filled internally.  

“Oxfam practices high ethical values and we suggest that these values should also be applied to its own employees, if it wishes to retain the moral high ground when it talks to governments worldwide.

“We want Oxfam to use natural wastage and voluntary redundancy as we believe this will be much less expensive and ensure that cover for all necessary areas continues.”  

Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Siobhan Endean said:“Oxfam needs to reverse this callous decision to sack a third of its staff during the global pandemic when staff will have no hope of finding new jobs. 

“The government urgently needs to provide dedicated funding for international aid organisations. 

“What is happening at Oxfam is, sadly, being replicated across UK charities, as funding is drying up due to coronavirus, and pushing many to the brink of closure at a time when we need a global humanitarian response to the crisis.”

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