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ARB should ‘strike off’ firms that don’t pay

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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.

RMJM also failed to pay its UK and US staff on time in January.

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.’

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