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Tuesday 23 August 2022

FDA Wales: renewed focus and activity

By Gareth Hills
English | Cymraeg
Gareth Hills’ journey to becoming FDA National Officer for Wales wasn’t a conventional one, having spent 34 years as a civil servant in HMRC and over a quarter of a century as a member of the FDA. He’s held many roles in the union, ranging from a local branch rep to the union’s National President from 2015-2018, and in 2020 he decided to take on a new challenge as a full-time member of staff. Here, he outlines the changes and future for FDA Cymru|Wales.

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Graham Martin

My first day as National Officer was 2 March 2020. I don’t need to tell you what happened next, but the pandemic had an immediate impact on my initial plans for building relationships with reps and employers.

However, the cancellation of meetings and other activity in that first month or so did, importantly, give me space and time to think about what was needed to grow the FDA in Wales and develop a strategy to deliver that, based around building a distinct FDA Wales brand and establishing a physical presence in Wales. 

While a formal launch wasn’t possible, 2020 saw us establish a new distinct FDA Cymru|Wales brand, signalling our focus on building the union in Wales and delivering for members across the country. As a life-long trade unionist and proud and passionate Welshman, that was a challenge I was eager to take on.

While my own written Welsh may not be perfect – I’m admit this piece went to translators before publishing – I’ve led a concerted effort to increase the union’s Welsh language output through more bilingual content and resources. I recognise this is essential to better serve all members across Wales and I’ve made it a personal aim of mine to improve my own understanding and fluency. I was delighted to welcome the BBC’s Huw Edwards to our Welsh in the Workplace webinar for members and, although there is much more to do in this space, I hope members will recognise that we are taking steps in the right direction.

Of course, that’s not all we’re doing to support members. Ove the last two years, through FDA Learn we have delivered bespoke training for Estyn, the National Library of Wales, and Welsh Government. We’ve secured funding through the Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF), which is helping us to promote the Fair Work agenda and increase diversity in senior roles. We successfully campaigned for additional – and permanent – funding for the National Library of Wales and National Museum of Wales, protecting jobs and securing the future of these institutions in the face of huge financial pressures during the pandemic.

We’ve also established the FDA Cymru|Wales Forum, which brings together reps from each devolved branch, along with the Devolved Wales Executive Committee member and myself, to share knowledge and to raise the awareness, profile, and membership of the FDA in Wales. It’s our ear to the ground with members, allowing us to identify and speak out on specific Welsh issues.

The union celebrated St David’s Day this year by submitting evidence to the Senedd’s Standards of Conduct Committee’s consultation on Procedures for Dealing with Complaints against Members of the Senedd. This was also the subject of our motion to this year’s Wales Trade Union Congress, where fellow trade unionists supported our campaign for the Senedd to implement a fully independent process for dealing with complaints of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment against MSs – one in which MSs play no part, up to and including decisions on sanctions.

As a result of this activity and renewed focus, the FDA is growing in size and influence in Wales and, for the first time in the union’s history, we have established a physical presence in Wales with the opening of our new office in the nation’s capital. Our Cardiff office will become the home of FDA Cymru|Wales. It will also be a hub for reps, members and union activity, and I hope to welcome many of you through the doors over the coming months.

Gareth Hills is the FDA's National Officer for Wales
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