PCS British Council campaign has positive impact

14 May 2020

The PCS campaign to save the British Council, devastated by a huge drop in income following the closure of most its overseas schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, has helped to safeguard jobs, put on hold redundancies and secure additional funding.

The campaign, launched late last month after the non-departmental public body furloughed a quarter of employees and announced it intended to let go 15% of non-permanent or fixed-term employees, has received support from cross-party MPs, including members of the foreign affairs select committee, and John Baron, the chair of the British Council all-party parliamentary group.

The early day motion proposed by our parliamentary group chair Chris Stephens has gained cross-party support from 32 MPs, while more than 1,300 people have completed the PCS e-action, which sends a direct letter to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, whose department is the council’s sponsor.

The University Council for General and Applied Linguistics, which represents the academic community for Linguistics and English Language in the UK, also wrote to the foreign secretary asking how he and his department intends to support the work of this “important institution in the current situation.”

Temporary reprieve

Since our campaign began the British Council has announced it would suspend the consultation process for redundancies, which it had intended to continue with during lockdown and furlough. This gives a temporary reprieve to more than 20 staff who were at risk of losing their jobs.

In a letter to PCS, FCO permanent under-secretary Simon McDonald said that: “The FCO remains committed to the British Council, which is why the FCO has agreed to provide additional funding for the 2019-20 financial year to help stabilise their immediate financial position. We will also be providing some of their 2020-21 Grant-in-Aid funding upfront in April to further alleviate pressures.”

He also said that the British Council continues to review its financial position and opportunities to “make efficiencies to ensure it can continue to operate and trade.”

Some additional funding has been provided by the FCO, however, the funding gap remains at £40 million a month for 4-5 months until operations abroad can re-open. If additional money is not forthcoming, we do not believe the council will be able to continue paying staff wages from June.

PCS remains concerned that the government will attach conditions to any further additional funding granted, such as a pay freeze, wage reductions and redundancies. Such cuts could destroy the much-valued work of the council, and could potentially impact on the money that it generates for the UK economy.

Keeping up the pressure

PCS members at British Council are still asking for your support for their campaign.

You can support the campaign by signing our e-action.

You can also contact your MP and ask them to sign EDM 375.

Email helenf@pcs.org.uk if you want to offer support to the campaign.

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