Nearly 100 jobs are to be axed by Scotland’s biggest conservation charity after it decided to press ahead with a controversial shake-up in the face of bitter protests from its workforce.
The National Trust for Scotland has announced it is to press ahead with a cost-cutting drive despite 82 per cent of staff declaring that they had no confidence in a proposed restructure.
The scale of the job cuts is not as bad as feared when the restructure was announced by chief executive Simon Skinner in June, just over a year after he was appointed as the trust’s new figurehead.
However the proposed reduction of 90 - down from the original proposal of 142 - still represents one in five of the full-time workforce.
Although Mr Skinner hailed the structural overhaul as a “visionary transformation” of the trust at the time, union leaders said their members were “genuinely worried” about the future of the trust.
A poll of employees by the Prospect union, the results of which were announced last week, found just five per cent of them believe the trust would be in a stronger position.
Almost 90 per cent of trust staff thought the shake-up, which has been drawn up to shave around 10 per off its annual running costs, would have a negative effect on its work.
Mr Skinner insists the changes will allow the trust to plough £17 million into long-awaited overhauls of sites like Culzean Castle, in Ayrshire, Brodie Castle, in Morayshire, and Newhailes House, in East Lothian.
The bulk of the job losses will be made at the trust’s headquarters on the outskirts of Edinburgh, where 250 staff are currently based.
Seven departments of the trust will be slimmed down to four under the shake-up, with heritage buildings under the trust’s stewardship divided into six regions.
NTS said any “at risk” staff would get the opportunity to apply for 72 new jobs that are being created under the overhaul.
Mr Skinner said: ““It is inevitable that we will be losing some people through the changes but we hope that as many as possible can find roles in the new structure. It will be a difficult time for some and we will offer as much support and help as we can.
“We would like to thank everyone who responded to our proposals and who made such useful and thoughtful submissions.
“In particular I welcome the constructive part that the Prospect union has played throughout the consultation.
“It was clear that the need for change was fully endorsed and, as a result of the information and practical suggestions received, we have made changes to our proposals that enhance the programme we are now enacting.
“The changes allow us to retain a core staff of specialists, who will support conservation and visitor services at properties, enable us to bring in new skills and competencies that ensure we offer world-class experiences and deliver a new regional structure that puts the places we care for firmly at the centre of decision-making and planning.
“More efficient ways of working will complement other sources of funding so that we can prioritise £17 million of investment to make our properties better.”
Ian Perth, negotiator for Prospect, said: “We have been given assurances that the 90 ‘at risk’ staff will be given priority when applying for the newly-created roles.
‘’I think the trust would be wrong to spend charitable donations gathered from the public and NTS members on forcing loyal member of staff to leave on compulsory redundancy terms, and then make external appointments.
“There is an abundance of skills and experience amongst the 90 staff who remain at risk and we hope that the majority of those who want to stay can be accommodated.
‘’Every compulsory redundancy is devastating for the individual affected and we’ll be focused on supporting members through what will be a very difficult and uncertain number of weeks.’’