A group of past RIBA presidents has urged the institute and the ARB to ‘take a strong line’ with practices that repeatedly fail to pay their staff
The call came in the wake of a raft of recent stories on unpaid wages. In the last few months, the workforce at Austin-Smith:Lord was at one point owed more than £850,000, and staff at YRM were denied two months’ salary prior to its demise and subsequent purchase by RMJM last month.
Past president George Ferguson (2003–5) said: ‘The RIBA and ARB should be taking a strong line on this with the practices and principals concerned. [The ARB] should consider striking off the worst offenders.’
Ferguson added: ‘Some of the recent cases where staff have not been paid for a considerable time on the promise of pay to come, when the means to do so could not be guaranteed, are inexcusable and a disgrace to the profession.’
Ex-president Paul Hyett (2001–3) said: ‘Both the RIBA and ARB have the teeth to investigate any serious misappropriation of monies
or breaches of staff contracts among their members.
‘They have, respectively, a moral and statutory duty to use such powers effectively.’
Former president Owen Luder (1981–3 and 1995-7) agreed: ‘The RIBA should come out in public criticism that this is not the way to run a professional practice.’
Current RIBA president Angela Brady attacked the behaviour of some practices as ‘absolutely disgraceful’.
Speaking about YRM, she said: ‘This situation seems very harsh on staff and their families, but [there is] also the loss of talent to the profession and economy.’
Last week RMJM lost its leading Scottish designer, Paul Stallan, who cited the non-payment of his and his staff’s wages as his reason for leaving.
‘It is possibly the worst it’s been for staff [at the moment]. The hardship that it creates has a debilitating effect on the studio,’ he said, revealing that December pay remains outstanding.
Stallan plans to establish a new practice with former RMJM principal Alistair Brand, who was sacked last week.
Past RIBA president Jack Pringle (2005–7) said: ‘Practices should pay their staff as a priority over all creditors and not unilaterally use the salary roll as a buffer against the bank.’