TUC Congress 2017: FDA leads cross-union push for properly resourced civil service

September 12, 2017

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Ministers must wake up and recognise the “crisis of resourcing” facing Britain’s civil service, the FDA has warned, as unions representing workers right across the economy backed an FDA motion at TUC Congress 2017.

The civil service is now at its smallest size since the second world war, having lost tens of thousands of staff since 2010. 

Yet despite the ongoing squeeze on resources, the demands on civil servants continue to grow, and the extra challenges posed by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union have so far not been matched by any increase in resources for the vast majority of government departments.

An FDA motion carried unanimously at the annual TUC Congress in Brighton on Tuesday calls for a new settlement for the civil service, stressing the need for Britain to have a “properly resourced, properly rewarded, impartial civil service” at this crucial time for the country.

Moving the motion, which was supported by both the PCS and Prospect unions, FDA President Gareth Hills told Congress:

“It’s civil servants who’ve been tasked with preparing the Great Repeal Bill. It’s civil servants who are at the heart of negotiating new trade relationships. It’s civil servants who will be expected to transpose EU laws into British ones and to overhaul immigration, customs and agricultural policies currently handled by the EU.

“And Congress, as we know all too well, it’s civil servants who’ve borne the brunt of austerity. Resources ravaged, close to a decade of pay restraint, cuts to pensions and a raft of other conditions.”

Hills told Congress that a new settlement for the civil service must include an end to the arbitrary 1% cap on pay rises, saying it was vital that departments were “able to have grown-up conversations about pay without the 1% straitjacket”. 

The motion calls on the TUC’s General Council to campaign “for a new settlement for the civil service, securing its impartiality and proper resourcing and developing a positive future vision” for the organisation.

It meanwhile urges “an immediate end to planned cuts, staffing reductions and privatisation in the civil service and its related bodies”, and says there must be “full consultation” with trade unions on the additional resources that will be needed to prepare the civil service for Brexit.

As well as stressing the need for civil servants to be properly rewarded and resourced for the challenges ahead, the motion calls for joint action from unions to “publicise the vital role civil servants have as deliverers of public services”, and calls on unions to “engage with government to ensure the civil service is properly equipped to deliver an exit from the EU that works for all industries and sections of society”.

“The cap has to break”

Speaking earlier in the week, the the FDA’s Vicky Johnson - President of the Association of Revenue and Customs - meanwhile called for an end to the pay cap right across the public sector, telling delegates that many FDA members are now 20% worse off in real terms than they were in 2010 thanks to Treasury pay policy and a raft of changes to terms and conditions.

“The cap has to break, but it must break for everyone,” she said. “To quote Frances [O’Grady, TUC General Secretary], the government cannot cherry-pick.”

Johnson said any end to the pay cap must come alongside action to “put right the flaws” in the current civil service pay system, and urged the Government to “put its own house in order before it lectures others” on the gender pay gap. 

She highlighted how the FDA had recently taken HM Revenue & Customs to the Employment Tribunal “because, due to flaws in the system - exacerbated by the pay cap - women doing the same, the exact same, work as men earn sometimes thousands of pounds less".

Johnson added: “If the pay cap continues the same issue will manifest itself on an age basis and will need challenging.”

Earlier this week, the TUC Congress backed a separate FDA motion calling on ministers to prove their commitment to boardroom reform by appointing staff to the boards of all public sector organisations. 


The full FDA motion on civil service resourcing is available to read below:

“Congress calls on the TUC to campaign for a new settlement for the civil service, recognising the crisis of resourcing in the civil service, the additional challenges posed by Brexit, more than 90,000 jobs lost and a government approach to pay and reward that has caused real-terms pay cuts of over 25 per cent for some civil servants. 

“This campaign should include lobbying the government to prioritise the good wellbeing and mental health of its workforce, 76 per cent of whom, an FDA survey uncovered, feel that excessive working hours are harmful to their health. In common with other parts of the public and private sectors, civil servants need a pay rise; but the public also need a properly resourced, properly rewarded, impartial civil service.

“Yet 70 per cent of respondents to a Prospect survey reported difficulties in recruiting or retaining people with the appropriate skills. Governments come and go; the impartiality and effectiveness of the civil service is a vital feature of democracy to which this Congress gives full support. New professional approaches are needed to deliver high quality services and ensure fair employment practices. They will not be achieved without strategic vision. 

“Congress calls on the General Council to: 

i. campaign for a new settlement for the civil service, securing its impartiality and proper resourcing and develop a positive future vision 

ii. campaign for an immediate end to planned cuts, staffing reductions and privatisation in the civil service and its related bodies 

iii. ensure full consultation with unions on the additional resources needed to prepare the civil service for Brexit 

iv. publicise the vital role civil servants have as deliverers of public services 

v. engage with government to ensure the civil service is properly equipped to deliver an exit from the EU that works for all industries and sections of society.”