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Monday 24 July 2023

Giving back: 2023 Wendy Jones Equality Award and Impact Award winners

The FDA’s Wendy Jones Equality Award and the Impact Award are presented each year at the union’s Annual Delegate Conference. Tommy Newell and Tom Nathan share details of this year’s winners and their work. 

The Wendy Jones Equality Award

Sal Naseem was presented with this year’s Wendy Jones Award by the Guardian’s Political Editor Pippa Crerar at the FDA Annual Delegate Conference in London. 

Named in honour of a long-serving FDA National Officer who led the union’s equality work, the award is given to the member who has done the most to forward the Equality and Diversity agenda during the previous calendar year. Naseem was recognised for his outstanding work as chair of the FDA’s Ethnic Minorities into Leadership conference. The event is held across the UK each year and aims to enhance leadership opportunities for Ethnic Minority individuals, providing workshops and an opportunity to hear from senior speakers.

“Sal takes annual leave to do this in his own time because he loves giving back and trying to inspire others from an ethnic minority background,” FDA President Tony Wallace remarked when announcing Sal as this year’s recipient. “He has done a fantastic job to help elevate the profile of this event over the past couple of years. He really does follow the philosophy on his LinkedIn page by the phrase, ‘We rise by lifting each other’.”

Upon receiving the award, Naseem told delegates that “it has been a privilege to support the FDA in the work that they do, to chair the conference around supporting ethnic minorities into leadership”.

“I think, as a person of colour, somebody who has been a victim of hate crime and racism growing up, to occupy a senior role means it comes with an extra responsibility about giving back.  It is a responsibility that I accept, and I do everything that I can,” he added.

Reflecting on why he first got involved in the FDA’s equality, diversity and inclusion work, Naseem explained that his starting point “was being invited to speak” at the conference. “It was the first time I'd actually spoken about my lived experience,” he recalled. 

For Naseem, talking about lived experience “is not an easy thing to do” because it means potentially “retraumatising yourself” and “opening up old wounds”.  He feels his “personal story is quite a tough one”, growing up as the only Asian family in a deprived part of the Scotland in the 1980s meant he dealt with “hatred, racism, and violence”. Naseem chose to speak because he thought it “would be cathartic” to share his experiences, but also because he “wanted to see if it could help anyone as well”.

“What I found was that you can actually leverage your lived experience, the bad things that happen to you, and turn them around into something unexpectedly positive,” Naseem said. “I shared really, really openly and honestly what it was like growing up, difficult experiences, and what it is like now to try to fight against racism and discrimination professionally. And it got an amazing response. It was a massive form of validation for the way I'd expressed things and the way I'd done things. So that's where it started.”

Naseem paid tribute to the approach of FDA Equality Officer Victoria Jones as a major factor for why he got more involved after this first experience with the union. 

“If it hadn't been for her passionate purpose, I wouldn't have got involved because there's too many meetings that I go into where it's just literally lip service. I saw how committed and passionate Victoria was in terms of what she was trying to do for the FDA and she got me on board.”

One of his priorities as chair has been about “shaping it to make it as real a conversation on that day as possible” so that the speakers on stage “are being honest and sharing honestly and authentically their experiences”.

“They're not peddling waffle. They're keeping it real. They're sharing how they got there. They're sharing honestly the challenges. And I've been privileged to hear so many inspirational stories over the years of how people have done it,” he added.

“Racism in the modern workplace doesn't look like what it looked like when I was younger"
Another big question that Naseem has considered is “do we talk enough about race?”. He offered an “honest answer” that when he became chair “there wasn't enough conversation about racism”.

Naseem is clear that the reason people attend the Ethnic Minorities into Leadership conferencesis because they face barriers in the workplace. While he’s aware that there are “complexities around it” there’s also “the truth of it – we're all bound by that ugly truth, which is racism.”

“Racism in the modern workplace doesn't look like what it looked like when I was younger,” he explained. “Because if it's out in the open, then in a really kind of twisted way, there's a gift, because you can deal with it head on, head on through disciplinary processes. But racism in the modern workplace, it hides itself behind smiles and policies that disenfranchise, that obstruct, and the current political climate makes it even harder to have those conversations around race. Because when we talk about structural barriers and everything, we're talking about people who are of different ethnicity being disadvantaged just because they are of different ethnicity.”

Naseem doesn’t sugar-coat his view that “there's still a substantial amount of work to be done” to improve representation, especially at more senior grades. “The civil service has got better. But are you telling me when you come to London, a city which is super diverse, and you look at the senior civil service, it is representative of London’s demography? No. And I see that from personal experience operating at a senior civil service level. It's absolutely not.”

In the face of these huge challenges, Naseem’s enthusiasm for the conference and his appetite to force a positive change is still palpable. His daughters attended the last event he chaired and for him it was “amazing for them to experience it and see it”.

“People come in a little bit reticent about what to expect and I always say to them at the start: ‘Be prepared to be inspired. Be prepared to be empowered and come back and challenge me at the end of the day if you're not’. I've not had one person challenge me, because by the end of the day, we all have been on this journey together, and by the end of the day, everybody's buzzing.”

A unique position

Naseem’s role as Regional Director for London at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) put him in a unique position to support the FDA’s work. He is considered a national expert in race and policing and leads the organisation’s thematic work on Race Discrimination. Naseem has spoken extensively in both the national and international media on these issues and has been instrumental in looking at the difficult issues around police culture through the lens of equality, diversity and inclusion.

“I had oversight of many police forces, including the Met, and I was also the national leader in the area of race discrimination,” he explained. “So, my professional working life was spent dealing with issues around racism and more broadly around equality, diversity and inclusion. That was something I was really ensconced in and I’d seen the FDA was trying to get into this area, was trying to do the work. And I thought, well, why not? If I can assist, why would I not try and help? And that's where I came at it from. From a genuine position of just trying to want to help in this really pernicious, difficult area.”


The Impact Award


The FDA Procurator Fiscal Section (PFS) was named winner of the Impact Award at this year’s Annual Delegate Conference, for its role in securing a pay deal for prosecutors in Scotland worth up to an extraordinary 56%. FDA General Secretary Dave Penman presented the award to the PFS Secretary Fiona Eadie and Convenor Angela Farrell, who accepted the award on behalf of the section. 

The Impact Award, launched in 2018, recognises the hard work undertaken by members, reps, sections or branches to impact a local campaign, engagement, branch development, recruitment, casework or negotiation. 

The Procurator Fiscal Section’s Equal Value, Equal Worth campaign resulted from over a decade of campaigning to ensure prosecutors in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service were paid the same as their counterparts in Scottish Government. The section successfully gained widespread support from across the legal profession, including the support of their Scottish Government colleagues and the Law Society of Scotland, meeting with the Justice spokesperson for each major party and giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. To gain political engagement, members lobbied their MSPs and the committee organised a postcard campaign to command the attention of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to deal with the long-standing dispute. 

In 2019, the FDA and the COPFS management jointly submitted a business case that sought funding to address the pay inequity. However, during lockdown, when prosecutors were given the status of keyworkers but this funding was still not forthcoming, the section moved for industrial action. An indicative ballot showed 95% support. 

This opened up the space needed to resolve the dispute, with ministers entering in-depth negotiations with FDA officials. March 2021 saw FDA members receive a pay offer that would finally result in pay parity and also secured the political and financial commitment to keep pace with salaries in Scottish Government in the future. The offer was voted on and overwhelmingly accepted by members.

After the offer was accepted, Eadie said: “The implementation process was not straightforward and was dependent upon a job evaluation process. The PFS Section therefore had to work hard to maintain the confidence of members throughout that process, the eventual merger of one of the grades and discussions around the implementation approach.”

The pay award in COPFS for 2022/23 was the culmination and final implementation of the three-year deal and has seen prosecutors in COPFS finally achieve pay parity with their Scottish Government colleagues. 

Eadie said the deal “has seen rises for our trainee solicitor members of between 33-38%. The starting salary for first level line managers has risen by 19% and for the next level line managers, their starting salary has risen by 26%.  The most dramatic rises however were for our newly qualified lawyers, whose starting salaries rose by an astonishing 56%.”.

On receiving the award, Farrell said: “I am delighted that our successful pay parity campaign has been recognised with this award and I am extremely proud to have been part of this campaign, the success of which could not have been achieved without the tireless work of our National Officer, Allan Sampson and our section Secretary, Fiona Eadie and the passionate commitment of our branch representatives and most importantly our members, without whom we could not have succeeded in reaching pay parity.” 

Eadie added that “the win on pay, the member engagement and our visibility on this issue has also resulted in a 15% rise in members and an all-time high in PFS Section membership.”

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