Report from the 2012 FDA Annual Delegate Conference

A packed conference hall at the 2012 ADC

ADC 2012 conference hall

The FDA's annual conference, attended by nearly 200 senior public servant delegates, took place in central London yesterday. FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, both due to step down from their posts this year, were the key speakers. Delegates also heard from former head of the UK Border Force - and FDA member - Brodie Clark, who resigned in November 2011 following allegations by home secretary Theresa May that he had improperly relaxed passport checks at British airports.

Proposals from delegates on issues including pay and UK governance - and a lively discussion on pensions - contributed to the day's debates, with motions passed affecting the union's future policy. Delegates' concerns over the 'new deal' for the civil service - which the head of the civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake, has spoken publicly about - were also debated. FDA general secretary designate Dave Penman said that the new deal should be about "pay, careers, development and recognition... If we are to make any headway on total reward then we will have to convince the government and the public of the value our members bring to the wider society, and the consequences of not addressing the widening gap between 'the deal' in the civil service and 'the deal' in the private sector".

FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume speaking to delegates, with deputy general secretary Jan Garlick; treasurer David Howdon; general secretary designate Dave Penman; and president Jeff Brice sitting at the front of the hall

FDA GS Jonathan Baume speaking at the 2012 ADC

FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume, speaking at his final conference before his retirement in early autumn, said that when he became general secretary in 1997 "the song of the moment was 'Things Can Only Get Better'. An appropriate theme for 2012 might be the Noel Coward classic 'There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner'".

He highlighted the importance of being honest with members; "honest about what we can achieve and honest about our limitations". Referring to the settlement on pensions reform from 2015, he added "no-one claims there was any kind of victory here. New pensions arrangements will cost more and they will be less generous. But... we have delivered for members what is undoubtedly the best of the major public sector pension schemes".

Baume asked delegates to "remember what unites us, respect our differences and diversity, and I am confident that this union will continue for many years as a unique and vital voice".

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, addresses the ADC

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber addresses the 2012 ADC

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber spoke of the significance of specialist unions such as the FDA within the TUC, stating that without them "our claim to speak up for Britain at work simply would not carry the same force".

On concerns over the Government's austerity measures, Barber told the conference that "ministers really need to understand this: Whitehall can't function on the cheap".

He spoke of a "mistrust at the heart of government" of civil servants, stating that "just over a year ago the Prime Minister referred to [them] as 'enemies of enterprise' and 'bureaucrats' - hardly the language of motivation and empowerment".

Barber told FDA delegates that they "have a voice that is respected right across Westminster... Keep influencing the debates that will shape Britain's future".

Former head of the UK Border Force, Brodie Clark, also spoke at the conference

Former head of the UK Border Force, Brode Clark, speaks to delegates at the 2012 ADC

Brodie Clark gave his "enormous appreciation to the FDA" for its "sound legal advice, abundance of experience and wise counsel at difficult moments".

Speaking of the Government's expectations on senior civil servants, he stated that "Agenda is their call, delivery is our duty... in return we should expect to be listened to... we should never shy away from standing up for ourselves".

At lunchtime, the FDA's Equality and Diversity Committee ran a fringe meeting. During the meeting, a short from the film 'Miss Representation' - which explores how the media's misrepresentations of women have led to the under representation of women in positions of power and influence - was shown. More information can be found at: FDA Equality and Diversity Committee fringe meeting at the 2012 ADC - Miss Representation.

The summer issue of Public Service Magazine will include a more detailed conference report.