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RMJM chief cross-examined at employment tribunal

RMJM group commercial director Declan Thompson has been cross-examined by a former employee at an employment tribunal in Edinburgh

Kirstin Taylor, now of Glasgow-based City Design, is claiming constructive dismissal. She left RMJM in February after allegedly failing to receive her salary since December.

Thompson told the tribunal he had read text messages in late January that indicated Taylor was considering taking work elsewhere.

Taylor, an associate at the firm at the time, asked: ‘Do you remember saying to me that there was no way [you] would settle with a junior member of staff, in an attempt to belittle me?’

Thompson replied: ‘There’s no way I would make that statement. I would have said there’s no way on earth I am going to settle until there’s been an investigation… Your level as an individual is completely irrelevant.’

He added later: ‘My genuine belief is that you are trying to get me to fund your new business.’ The case continues.

Meanwhile, RMJM chief executive Peter Morrison has told staff that the troubled practice is in ‘a strong position to quickly return to growth’.

His upbeat email came as the global group posted an £11 million pre-tax loss for the year to April 2011 – compared with a £1.6 million profit in the prior year.

The 2011 loss included £5.4 million in operating loss and interest payments, £3.7 million in impairment of fixed assets – mainly property write-downs – and more than £1m in restructuring and redundancy costs.

The group also saw turnover plummet from £81.2 million in 2010 to £71.6 million last year.

Average headcount across the group dropped by 2,985 people in the year to April 2011.

Morrison’s email revealed that the Morrison family had spent £20 million buying its own debt from the Bank of Scotland.

RMJM has also lost a number of high-profile designers this year, including long-serving architect Tony Kettle and group business development director Colin Bone.

But Morrison wrote: ‘The Morrison family has continued to support the business to the fullest extent possible. This has allowed RMJM to start the next phase of its evolution without any bank debt and as such places the business in a strong position to quickly return to growth. 

‘RMJM remains one of the most geographically diverse architecture practices in the global marketplace and, with one of the industry’s largest portfolios of built work, we look forward to what we hope will be exciting and busy few years ahead.’

The accounts revealed that turnover dropped almost 25 per cent to £16.0m in Europe, by a similar amount to £20.0m in the Middle East and by 17 per cent to £13.8m in the US.

However, RMJM grew in Asia in the year to April 2011, with turnover increasing by almost a third to £21.8m.

Chairman Sir Fraser Morrison said in the report: ‘Our people have worked tirelessly to ensure we emerge from the recession stronger and more efficient than ever and we thank them all for their unwavering commitment and loyalty.

‘Most importantly our architects continue to deliver designs to the highest international standards. It is inspiring to work with them and we greatly appreciate their talent and creativity.’

Readers' comments (2)

  • John Parman

    The headcount number given for RMJM seems improbably large given its stated annual revenue.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • John, I think you're right. I believe they only have about 50 or so staff members in the NYC area... not sure how many they have throughout the world, but a loss of 3,000 people in 1 year seems a bit extreme.

    And in regards to Taylor, a statement was released last week that the case was dismissed by the court. Apparently the judge deemed her unreliable.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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