Annual Conference 2023: Penman says "enough is enough" and repeats call for members to vote for strike action
Dave Penman, General Secretary
Speaking at this year’s Annual Delegate Conference, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman encouraged members to support the union’s planed industrial action ballot and called on ministers to “demonstrate they value civil servants”.
Reflecting on how the union has reached this point, he said: "The rug had been clearly pulled from under the feet of the civil service leadership, political and official. Whoever had made the decision to treat the civil service so blatantly different from elsewhere, they were not concerned over the impact this would have. I doubt, to be honest, whether they even cared. It was a decision to send a message elsewhere.”
Penman accused ministers of pushing the FDA "over the edge into balloting for industrial action" and took Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to task for treating civil servants like “second class public sector workers”. He told members that he knows “what an extraordinary difficult choice” it will be to vote for industrial action but assured that he and the Executive Committee “would not ask this of you if we didn’t think it was absolutely necessary”.
“There comes a time for everyone when enough is enough, when the only response can be a demonstrable one that signals to ministers exactly how strongly you feel. That time is now conference,” he added.
Later in the day, while moving an emergency motion on industrial action, Penman told delegates that the intention is that the FDA will start balloting members at the end of May, the ballot will close at the end of June and, if successful, action will take place before summer break. The ballot will include FDA members working for UK government departments, covering both delegated grades and the SCS, and marks the first time the union has run a national strike ballot over pay in 40 years.
The FDA General Secretary also reflected on the Dominic Raab bullying affair: "The FDA has no hit list of ministers. The FDA does not go around encouraging complaints - but the FDA has, and it always will, stand up to bullies on behalf of its members".
Rt Hon. David Gauke, political commentator and former Conservative minister
The former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Lord Chancellor and Treasury minister spoke to FDA members about the value of civil servants, the relationship between ministers and officials and why accusations of "the blob" do not reflect reality.
Pippa Crerar, Political Editor at The Guardian
Pippa Crerar spoke to delegates about the principles that drive her investigative journalism, the political climate of the last few years and how the civil service has been caught up in a wider culture war.