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Wednesday 01 September 2021

‘Being in a union is fun’

Join your union for the comradeship, for being part of the bigger picture, and for making a positive difference for others. But most of all, join because it’s fun, writes former Fast Streamer Lizzie Houghton.

Looking back on my three years on the Civil Service Fast Stream, the best experiences and friends all came through my time on the FDA Fast Stream Section Committee. 

Comradeship isn’t party political; it is about likeminded people working together to make things better. Nowhere is that truer than in the work of FDA workplace reps. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone come out stronger from a difficult period. It won’t be fun in the moment, but reflecting back later – knowing how much of a difference it made to someone’s life – that’s a pretty good feeling. 

It is also fun being ‘in the know’. Being the person people come to for the ‘big gossip’; what is going on with this change? Why is that happening? What will they do about it? And how we can fix a wrong. If you want to ‘see the bigger picture’ in any department, join the union and get involved. 

By far the most fun comes from actually making a difference. It is no secret that many of those on the Fast Stream come from backgrounds of being involved in something; think tanks, charities, university societies. It can be a bit of a shock to the system adjusting to being politically restricted, but your colleagues need that energy; whether it is talking pay; seeking to improve diversity and inclusion; or even just making sure internal policies make sense. 

It also helps you prepare for having less fun. All I know, as a new Grade 7, about HR processes I have learnt not from Fast Stream courses, but from being a union rep. I like to think it has made me a better manager and it has certainly given me the confidence to challenge my leadership. Something as a disabled civil servant I’ve found myself having to do too often. 

Join your union for the comradeship, for being part of the bigger picture, and for making a positive difference for others. But most of all, join because it’s fun.

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