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Thursday 16 September 2021

How the FDA fundamentally restructured Fast Stream pay

By Steven Littlewood

National Officer Steven Littlewood reflects on the historic Fast Stream pay settlement and how none of it would have been possible without the “show of determination” from Fast Stream members.


During my years of being a union activist, I have talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of people about joining a union and why they should be a member. 

Of course, there are dozens of reasons to be a union member but for me the crucial one is that we achieve more together than we do standing alone. This principle is summed up neatly in familiar slogans like ‘unity is strength’ and ‘there is power in a union’, but slogans repeated ad nauseum can turn into platitudes; people don’t want mottos, they want to see concrete examples of how unions have empowered members to collectively change things. There is no better example of this than the recent Fast Stream pay dispute.  

Back in 2019, members had been telling us for some years that the Fast Stream pay structure was broken and we had been pushing for it to be reformed, but the real catalyst for change came with the Cabinet Office decision to give Fast Stream members a lower pay rise than the rest of Cabinet Office staff. Coming off the back of a huge effort from Fast Stream members to help facilitate EU Exit and other urgent government priorities, it was a slap in the face for our members to be awarded an average of just 0.75% while their colleagues had a minimum 2% rise.

The justifiable outrage from members allowed us to bring together the whole Fast Stream cohort in near unanimity as 99% of members rejected the pay offer. We recruited members in record numbers and held a series of packed town hall meetings as members told us that the situation was untenable and had to change. Initially our demands on pay were rejected by the Cabinet Office and we moved towards an indicative ballot on industrial action – the first time that Fast Stream staff had ever considered such a move.

This show of determination, and the fact that the FDA negotiators clearly had the backing of our members, enabled us to move to a negotiated solution that fundamentally restructured Fast Stream pay along the lines that we had long been pushing for.

From a system that had just one pay point over four years, and an annual pay mechanism that gave rises as low as £80, we have now moved to a system of yearly increments with an annual consolidated pay increases of 3.9-9.8% (depending on which year of the scheme you are on) and a bi-annual revalorisation of pay levels. 

None of this would have been possible without members uniting behind the negotiating team – this was not an achievement of the union for its members, it was an achievement of the union with its members. If you have not already done so, make sure you join the union today and become part of the next cohort of change makers. 

Steven Littlewood is the National Officer for the FDA Fast Stream Section
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