Hands Off British Council campaign
British Council workers feel betrayed after suffering the uncertainty of 2020 and a pay freeze which has meant they have not received any cost of living increase since 2019. They now face compulsory redundancies following the announcement of over 2000 job cuts across the globe.
Details of the overall Business Transformation and restructure of the organisation have not been shared with staff or the unions. British Council management states that this is because the plans have not been completed, though it is clear that whilst staffing levels may be cut the workload will not. Against our objections, British Council management insisted on ploughing ahead with formal redundancy consultation, indicating their desire to move through to redundancies quickly using a piecemeal approach.
PCS has asked why the recent sale of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) business in India for £130m has not been used to mitigate jobs losses. It is likely that the British Council will use this money, and money saved from reducing their country operations overseas, to pay back the £245m in loans to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and to build back their reserves which they have spent.
The government loan to British Council was apparently considered under the ‘Market Economy Operator Principle’ (MEOP) as a part of their business is commercial so the loan conditions are comparable of a private lender to commercial business. MEOP is covered by EU legislation, and did not apply to much of the state aid from non-UK governments to businesses affected by the pandemic. It would appear that MEOP is being employed by the government as an excuse to bring British Council under stricter control and to slash budgets.
The redundancies must be halted, with full transparency and consultation allowed on the future of the organisation. The British Council should be allocated additional government funding without strings attached, or allowed to pay back their loan over a longer period.
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