MSF CRITICISES VOLUNTARY SECTOR COMMISSION REPORT
The report of the Commission On The Future Of The Voluntary Sector, issued today is criticised by MSF for failing to address the pressing problems of staff working in the sector.
"While the union's surveys of members employed in charities and voluntary organisations have revealed wide spread experience of over-work, stress and burn out, in addition to many other forms of hidden exploitation, the Commission's report is conspicuously silent on all these problems," said Chris Ball MSF National Officer with responsibility for the sector.
There is accumulating evidence of staff in the sector being harassed and bullied, and specially difficult issues for staff in some residential projects. These range from threats of violence and actual cases of assault, to the trauma of being involved in dealing with highly sensitive issues, whilst personal support mechanisms are poor or non-existent. Inadequate management of grievances and disciplinary cases is also common, resulting in many hours of lost time, and disruption to the organisations concerned.
"The Commission seem to have ignored these pressing problems. Instead they seem obsessed with the problems of small organisations taking on staff for the first time, whilst the reality is that 90 per cent of employees in the sector are to be found in the top ten per cent larger organisations", said Chris Ball.
Another problem which concerns MSF is the attitude that voluntary organisations take to the recognition of trade unions. Some organisations believe that unions are inappropriate in charities and voluntary bodies, yet problems of mismanagement, abuse of power, or misuse of funds, can best be controlled if staff have the right to speak out freely under the protection of a recognised trade union.
MSF called for a code of practice setting out the reasonable rights and expectations of employees in matters of trade union membership and representation. The Commission has neither commented on nor responded to this point, despite the fact that in an interview for MSF's magazine Common Ground earlier this year, the Commission chairman Nicholas Deakin said that these issues would be considered, and described an example given by MSF in its written evidence as a "striking case".
"They observe that pay in the sector is 20 or 30 per cent less than the going rate in the commercial sector, yet leave hanging in mid air the question of whether or not this is an acceptable state of affairs. They ignore the lack of academic concern with the special problems of employment in the sector, and fail to comment on the neglect of this area which is shown by the development agencies and research centres like the LSE's Centre for Voluntary Organistions, and City University's Volprof."
"The Commission seems not to have included anyone with an interest in personnel research, and in the absence of debate taking place in the academic institutions either, they have simply skirted around the big issues of human resorce management in this important sector."
Chris Ball commented: "The result is that in this area at least, the Commission's report is about as illuminating as a presidential address at an annual charity dinner. Or as George Orwell once said (of vegetarians) 'full of wind and good intentions.' A bit unfair really ........ to the vegetarians!"
Notes to editors:
The Commission was established by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations eighteen months ago to undertake an independent enquiry into the broad range of problems facing the sector. It has worked under the Chairmanship of Professor Nicholas Deakin of Birmingham University, and has received evidence from over 300 organisations with an interest in the sector.
MSF submitted evidence to the Commission last year highlighting the problems facing employed staff in the sector. The union has 20,000 members in the voluntary and not for profit sector, in charities like Save the Children Fund, NCH Action For Children, Barnardos, and in bodies as varied as Citziens' Advice Bureaux, environmental agencies and training and examination bodies.
Recent estimates have put the number of employees in the voluntary sector as high as 390,000 whole time equivalents.
MSF's recent major review of pay and reward in the sector revealed an increasing gap between the higher and lower paid employees, a growing disparity between conditions in the private, public and voluntary sectors and moves away from investing in staff training and equal opportunities issues. (Full details available on request.)
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