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Trust makes cuts as restructuring continues

AS MANY as ten people have so far lost their jobs at Shetland Amenity Trust through compulsory and voluntary redundancy as part of its cost-cutting process, Shetland News has learned.

Trust chairwoman Ruth Mackenzie confirmed redundancies have been made but was unable to comment on exact figures as the organisation continues to look towards reducing its spending by around £200,000.

Redundancies have taken place in areas across the trust, from the construction team to the museum, while marketing officer Emma Miller had her last day on Friday (17 November).

Mackenzie also said it is “unfortunate” timing that both acting general manager Andy Steven and his deputy Adam Johnson are taking time off until the new year to use up annual leave.

Amenity trust chairwoman Ruth Mackenzie says she has "huge sympathy" for staff. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

That news comes after trustee Brian Wishart stepped down from the board this week, leaving the trust on the lookout for four or five new members despite having only just recruited Linda Riddell and Pauline Megson.

The new structure of the trust is expected to be finalised by mid-December and it is thought that a management team consisting of heads in areas like heritage and facilities will form the backbone of the new set-up.

The amenity trust, which runs the Shetland Museum and Archives on behalf of Shetland Islands Council and is also supported annually with over £1 million from Shetland Charitable Trust, announced in September that it needed to slash its costs or risk losing some of its vital funding.

The trust said there was “no alternative” to looking at cutting staff and relevant trade unions became involved.

It is understood that there has been widespread frustration among employees regarding a perceived a lack of communication during the process, with staff seemingly unable to speak to trustees directly about the issue.

It is also believed that some staff who have been verbally told their jobs are safe have not yet had that confirmation in writing yet.

Mackenzie said the “process is still ongoing and there is still people who have to complete interviews, and for whom agreements have yet to be reached.”

She added that streamlining the management structure was “not on the cards at the moment, but that’s not to say that that won’t happen shortly”.

“I think that the feeling before was that the structure was very flat, that everybody reported to the general manager, and it was felt that we needed to move on from that, and have more lines of authority delegated below that,” Mackenzie said.

“But quite what the final structure will be or how it will emerge, obviously that will depend on how the process goes, and who goes and who stays and how that is worked out.

“My understanding is that so far most of the discussions have gone well, as well as they can – obviously it’s not a great situation to be in – but staff have certainly had every opportunity to engage with the process and to give their views and their thoughts, and that has been taken on board.

The trust runs the Shetland Museum and Archives on behalf of Shetland Islands Council. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

“Some original ideas have been modified as a consequence of those consultations as well.”

The newly elected chairwoman said in terms of speaking to staff, trustees have to be a “bit removed from the process” to remain objective over any potential appeals, but she said the trust has a HR person who employees can raise concerns with.

“I think it’s a very, very testing and difficult time for the staff, inevitably,” Mackenzie said.

“I have huge sympathy for them, because all of them are very committed to the amenity trust.

“They’ve got a wide variety of incredible skills from a huge, diverse background, and it is hard. It’s very difficult, and it’s a very challenging time for everybody involved.”

The former teacher confirmed that general manager Andy Steven was taking time off after not going on any annual leave since taking up his post in February.

The Christmas and New Year period effectively sees the trust close it doors and it is thought that the end of the year was the most appropriate time for Steven and his deputy Johnson to take leave.

Mackenzie admitted it was “a very difficult issue, and a very contentious issue” – with management heads Misa Hay and Tracey Leslie “up to speed” on things to oversee the trust alongside the chairwoman when they are away.