RIAS says practice should treat staff properly as new redundancies are announced at Scottish office

The Scottish equivalent of the RIBA has hit out at Edinburgh-based global architect RMJM after the firm admitted its staff salaries had once again been delayed this month.

In an extraordinary few days for the firm, which is ranked the 13th biggest architecture practice in the world, RMJM said that UK staff salaries due on 9 January had been delayed after a hold-up of several days to the December payroll.

RMJM also announced that it had informed employees on Monday of a new programme of redundancies at its two Scottish offices. On the same day the managing principal for Scotland, Alistair Brand, was sacked on the spot.

The duty of the employer is to meet its moral and legal obligations to the employees

Neil Baxter, RIAS

Following the events the secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) said RMJM should treat staff properly and questioned its business model under non-architect chief executive Peter Morrison.

Neil Baxter told Building he had “huge sympathy” for RMJM staff affected by the turmoil. “Many of the employees are members of the RIAS. It is the duty of the employer morally and legally to meet their obligations to the employees,” he said.

“It is interesting to ponder that most successful architecture practices are run by successful architects and one does wonder whether this alternative approach is the best model,” he added.

A spokesperson for RMJM told Building that the 120 staff at the Edinburgh and Glasgow offices had been told on Monday that up to 10 of them face redundancy.
He added that Glasgow-based Brand, a longstanding member of staff, had “been dismissed and left the building immediately”.

He declined to comment on the reasons for Brand’s dismissal.

The spokesperson insisted that the firm’s finances were “robust” and that payment delays had been minimal.

“The slowdown in the economy is having a huge impact. It has been challenging not just for ourselves, but also our clients and there are no signs of the market improving,” he added.

“We caught up significantly with pension payments in December and expenses are, for the most part, up-to-date.”
Before Christmas, RMJM bought architect and infrastructure specialist YRM in a pre-pack administration deal believed to have cost £30,000.