National Officer Jawad Raza has worked at the FDA since 2008, but started out following a very different path when he undertook a biotechnology degree.
Tired of working in a lab all day with little interaction with other people, Jawad became a civil servant, briefly working in a Jobcentre. From there, he moved into the voluntary sector, helping organisations set up the structures so they could take on volunteers. This led Jawad into trade unionism, when he worked for the TUC, leading on a number of Union Learning Fund projects.
Jawad was keen to move into a role that was more focused on negotiation and personal cases, and, fortunately, an opportunity came up for a permanent position at the FDA.
Jawad enjoys the variety of his work as a National Officer, currently covering HMRC, the DWP and the Cabinet Office, negotiating within departments but also contributing to wider work on issues such as health and safety and equality. His favourite bit of his job, however, remains personal casework - something which can be immensely helpful for members as well rewarding on a personal level, “which definitely keeps him on his toes.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he still finds negotiating pay frustrating, as “there is so much you want to do to get departments to really fix the inequalities in each pay system, and I know that’s a frustration shared by members”.
The Covid-19 lockdown has had a massive impact, with HMRC and DWP two of the departments at the forefront of the response. Much of the discussion now has moved on from how to enable people to work from home, to what happens as people return to the workplace, and how this can this be done safely. Jawad is keen to give credit to the FDA’s workplace reps: “Our reps have really stepped up and done a huge amount of work during this crisis.
“These departments have a workforce spread out in offices across the country, so some work was already being done via videoconferencing anyway. Now, everyone is joining remotely, rather than just one or two people. The work is still being done, it’s just being done differently.”
On a personal level too, lockdown has meant having to find a personal balance between parenting and working. Flexibility has been the key: “Getting everything done, but not being too hard on yourself.”
Away from the FDA, finding new ways of keeping his two young children entertained takes up much of Jawad’s spare time, but when he is looking for a way to relax, “a nice beer and a game of football will always do it”. Though these days, he hastens to add, that tends to mean watching rather than playing.
Interview by Scott Dobson