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Friday01 August 2014

RMJM begs US staff to turn up to work

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‘If nobody is working, it will lead to more difficult situation,’ says practice

The extent of the turmoil at RMJM’s New York office has been laid bare in an email sent by its HR department begging senior managers to convince staff owed unpaid wages to still turn up for work.

The email, seen by BD, was sent earlier this month by Jean Warren, the firm’s North America human resources manager and was issued to address problems caused by some staff refusing to go into work until they get paid. BD understands that last month more than 25 staff failed to turn up for work one day in an organised protest at missing wages. “Just principals and temps showed up,” said one staffer.

Staff in New York are owed up to two-and-a-half month’s wages and the email sets out the company’s response to those either not turning up for work or asking to be put on unpaid leave.

Recipients of the email are told that the approach has been “approved by [chief executive] Peter [Morrison] and [group commercial director] Declan [Thompson].”

The email says the firm can authorise unpaid leave but adds: “It is vital that we try our very best to convince our employees that if nobody is working anymore, it will just lead to a more difficult situation. The business in essence is only existing through our employees and we need to build this up now for our future work and collections.”

And it says staff not coming into work – and who are not sick or on holiday – should not be paid at all. “We will consider it as unpaid leave, this to be communicated in advance with line manager.”

Senior managers are told they should report to HR employees not turning up or asking for unpaid leave. “The HR team will also monitor sickness very closely during this difficult time so please ensure that any staff calling in sick are reported immediately.” It told recipients that “if you have problems doing this” then HR would do it for them.

But the email makes clear that RMJM, which has the blamed the problem of late salaries on recouping money owed elsewere in the business, expects the issue to be resolved “allowing normal employment to resume”.

Staff, who also claim that their health insurance and payments into a US retirement plan called 401k have also stopped, were told that missing salaries would be paid at the beginning of January which was then put back to the middle of last month. BD understands staff have now been told payments will be made at the end of this week.

The New York office has been hit by a string of departures in recent months and last week BD reported that West Virginia University had ditched it from a project because of concerns over the architect’s finances and the number of staff leaving.

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Readers' comments (19)

  • Mike Duriez

    If the firm had high design prestige, then no one would worry if all the staff were unpaid.

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  • casual observer

    How can it be 'unpaid leave', when the staff aren't being paid? Is this like 'pro-bono' work that you don't actually do ...

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  • to quote
    "The business in essence is only existing through our employees ..."

    Then they need to treat their employees with respect and pay them what they are owned or does us all a favour and give up because it clearly isnt working.

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  • Scott Dale

    Not being paid is a breach of contract and amounts to constructive dismissal - at least it did when it happened to me a few years ago. The staff are therefore free to do what they want.
    (NB. I colour-in for a living so any lawyers who want to correct me - feel free.)

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  • Please turn up to work even though we have'nt paid you and can't do so yet cos it makes us look bad to our clients!!!

    Man up RMJM, pay your staff or shut up shop in disgrace!

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  • The seeming obsession with the saga of RMJM appears to be bordering on a blood lust which will only be satisfied when the firm fails and the remaining staff are unemployed. Is RMJM the only firm not meeting salary, probably not. One wonders what BD will do to fill the space if they do not have RMJM to write about?

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  • I would say in response to the post above - it's not about blood lust. Get over this point please. It's boring now.

    It's about letting the world know that an architectural practice that had 50 years of reputation is now in tatters because of the people in charge. It's also to bring to the governing bodies attention the fact that the staff are now being forced to pull more overtime/weekends in order to cover the defecit made by staff leaving.

    It's one thing not paying staff. It's an entirely other thing not paying staff and making them give up their lives at the same time. Try working 60 hour weeks and keep a family together...whilst not bringing in any bread. Pretty hard by anyones standards.

    The more exposure of these "situations" the better.

    Just my 2 pennies as an ex-employee...

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  • I wonder if BDOnline will run the story 'RMJM staff paid fully' with the same gusto.

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  • You've got to ask how RMJM managed to buy YRM if they can't pay their staff?

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  • If you work for nothing, your work is worth.... nothing.

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