Praxis workers outraged over £187k wages for bosses
Staff say they have not received a pay increase in two years
Staff at Northern Ireland's biggest charity are angry over bosses' pay - after revealing they have not had a wage rise in two years.
There is understood to be growing disquiet at Praxis after a series of revelations about the salaries of senior management.
The Belfast Telegraph recently reported how the organisation's chief executive and his wife earned at least £187,000 last year.
Nevin Ringland is on a £142,000 salary while his wife Irene Sloan, who is director of care, is paid between £45,000 and £78,000.
It has caused unease among staff who are already unhappy that their wages have remained frozen for the last two years.
In February a request for a 3% rise was rejected by Praxis, who said the charity was operating in an "extremely difficult financial environment".
Speaking on the BBC's Talkback programme, Praxis chairman Ken Brundle admitted he "cannot remember" when staff last had a pay rise. One source said: "These headlines have left staff very unhappy. Morale is very low and the workers feel very undervalued."
Another said they felt the reports over senior management's pay were damaging the charity's public image, and would hit donations.
It is understood an email has been sent to staff from the charity's HR department advising them not to discuss salaries following recent media coverage.
Praxis specialises in mental health and learning disability issues. It employs around 1,200 staff and has 1,500 clients.
According to the charity's accounts, Mr Ringland's £142,000 salary was boosted last year by backdated pension payments. His overall package in 2014 was more than £210,000.
Last October the GMB union wrote to Praxis seeking improved terms and conditions for staff.
- An increase in all elements of pay equal to current inflation, plus a further 3% rise to reflect the lack of an increase for the last two years;
- Sleepover arrangements to be paid at an hourly rate, not the current £30-a-time allowance;
- "Harmonisation" of rates for qualified and unqualified staff who, the union say, carry out the same responsibilities;
- A commitment to move to a living wage, plus a review of remuneration for working unsociable hours.
The requests were sent to Praxis on October 9 last year. The charity responded on February 16.
A letter from Praxis's director of HR, Robin Arbuthnot, states Praxis undertook a benchmarking exercise with comparable organisations in late 2014.
It says: "While Praxis found its pay to be broadly equivalent to other employers, the senior management team made a commitment to review current pay structures."
However, the letter continues that Praxis' senior management team is concerned about the implications of potential budget cuts. It adds that "clarity on the budgetary implications" will not be available until this autumn.
Because of this, the letter continues, Praxis is unable to implement any element of the pay claim submitted by GMB.
Mr Arbuthnot's letter goes on to explain: "Praxis Care have operated in an extremely difficult financial environment over the last five years.
"Due to financial freezes imposed on Praxis Care, the organisation has not been given the scope by commissioners to increase salary levels."
GMB official Michael Mulholland branded the response "totally unacceptable".
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "There is a complete breakdown in industrial relations between the workforce and the senior management team."
Praxis chief executive Nevin Ringland is paid £142,000 a year. His wife Irene Sloan, who is director of care at the charity, receives between £45,000 and £78,000 a year. Between them, the couple earned at least £187,000 last year. It is understood Ms Sloan's wage has been nearer the top end of her £45,000 to £78,000 salary bracket, which would have pushed the couple's earnings above £200,000. Praxis said all salaries are benchmarked against other organisations and reflected the expertise and experience of senior staff.