A third of staff at Oxfam could be made redundant as the coronavirus pandemic has led to a lack of funding at the charity.

Trade union Unite describe the threat to jobs a 'a tragedy in the fight against global poverty'.

Oxfam was due to start the 45-day consultation process on redundancies at its Oxford headquarters yesterday and it is believed that a third of the 800 staff could be at risk.

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The job losses will also include Oxfam offices in Scotland, Wales, Manchester and Newcastle, as well as the specialist warehouse in Bicester which supplies vital equipment such as water tanks and the Batley site in Yorkshire where second hand clothes are recycled.

Roles will be cut across the whole workforce including those delivering programmes in war-torn countries such as Yemen and fundraisers and campaigners.

Unite said that the coronavirus funding crisis was the last straw in a series of poor management decisions in recent years, which has been compounded by losses running at an estimated £5 million a month as more than 600 of its charity shops are closed.

The union, which has about 400 members at the charity founded in 1942, has called for a voluntary redundancy programme to be implemented, rather than swingeing compulsory job losses.

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Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “The threatened job losses at Oxfam are a tragedy in the global fight against poverty. Many people don’t realise the extent that Oxfam is a world leader in public health, with dedicated staff who risked their lives to defeat the Ebola outbreaks. 

“Without the necessary funding, Oxfam won’t be unable to expand its desperately needed coronavirus work to save thousands of lives across the world.

“Unfortunately, despite the ground breaking work over 70 years that Oxfam has done, our members have lost confidence in senior management. The financial crisis due to Covid-19 has been exacerbated by mismanagement over recent years.  

“Oxfam’s directors have refused our requests to open a voluntary redundancy register; to furlough all staff who were made redundant in the last few months; or suspend the redundancy consultation during furlough. Oxfam should not be making redundancies while it can still use funding from the job retention scheme (JRS) to pay for 80 per cent of wages.

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“Yet, they decided to keep on two directors who had already resigned and are advertising externally for roles that could be filled internally. 

“Oxfam practices high ethical values and we suggest that these values should also be applied to its own employees, if it wishes to retain the moral high ground when it talks to governments worldwide.

“We want Oxfam to use natural wastage and voluntary redundancy as we believe this will be much less expensive and ensure that cover for all necessary areas continues.” 

Oxfam says it has started consulting with staff on reorganising the charity which aims to reduce costs by around £16 million annually and is expected to result in the loss of more than 200 posts. It says it will look to avoid redundancies where possible.