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Tuesday 25 April 2023

Why the FDA is launching a strike ballot on pay

By Dave Penman
FDA Picket 847
The union's Executive Committee has decided to launch a ballot for industrial action, which if successful would initially involve a national one day of strike action. They did not take this decision lightly and I want to personally explain to you why this is the right response for FDA members.

The FDA is, and always will be, a strong, pragmatic union. We pride ourselves on our approach to representing the interests of members. As a union that always strives to reflect your values, our approach with employers is led by evidence, persuasion, and engagement. We are unafraid to challenge, but also unafraid to reach agreement.

As we have always done, we sought to persuade the government to respond. We’ve met with ministers on several occasions since January, pressing our case and submitting our own independent evidence to respond to the government’s published economic analysis on the inflationary impact of public sector pay rises.

Despite the series of meetings held with ministers and officials over the past few months, it was clear that meaningful dialogue on substance would not be possible until the government’s approach to pay across the public sector was settled. Although these were preliminary talks with no specifics, our expectation was that the civil service would follow both the process and substance of the other public sector areas. There would be a period of enhanced dialogue/negotiation and the offer would be a made up of a percentage for 2023/24 with an additional element to recognise the cost of living pressures. As we’ve seen elsewhere, after floating various options, including the backdating of awards, this has solidified into an additional non-consolidated additional payment. In education this was worth £1000 and in health £1650 with an extra post COVID 2%.

Since the offers to health and education, we have been agitating to start that process and get to the substance of any offer. Until the end of last week, despite the delay, our expectation remained that we would see a comparable offer for the civil service.

At Friday’s meeting with Minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin, called with less than 24 hours notice, he made clear there would be no comparable additional compensation payment. There was no meaningful explanation of why the government had decided to treat the civil service so differently from the rest of the public and why they have essentially gone back on the stated approach to engaging with us and recognising the cost of living challenges in the same way.

I have been at the FDA for 23 years and General Secretary for the last 10. I have in all that time never found myself so utterly at a loss as to why the government would want to treat our members and the rest of the civil service in this way. If this is, as I suspect, a tactical decision to use the civil service to send a message elsewhere then not only is it a flawed one, but once again demonstrates that there are those in government who simply do not value the civil service in the way they do the rest of the public sector.

It is that lack of value that enrages me so much. I see every day our members' incredible work in the most extraordinary of circumstances. The civil service has been through so much in the last few years, exacerbated by an approach from government and ministers which has sought to undermine your professionalism, integrity and impartiality. I, like many, had hoped that we were through this. Ultimately though, this is not about me and whether I am angry, it is about civil servants and FDA members. The government is sending the clearest possible signal that it wants to treat the civil service differently from the rest of the public sector. That value, or lack of it, can even now be quantified by a number, rather than an anonymous briefing or a condescending note on someone’s desk.

That, ultimately, is why the Executive Committee has decided to ballot for industrial action and wants a national day of strike action across our membership. We want to send the clearest signal. A signal that FDA members, who pride themselves on their belief in pragmatism and engagement, are left with no choice when a government treats them in this way.

I know this will be a very difficult decision for many of our members and as I said at the beginning, this is not something that I or our Executive Committee would ask of them lightly, but we are convinced that given the government’s approach, this is now the right response from FDA members.


Preparations for the ballot have now begun. Balloting for strike action is a bureaucratic and a complex affair. If you are an FDA member, whatever way you ultimately intend to vote, it is vital that as many of you participate in the ballot to make your voice heard.

Voting for industrial action can only be done by postal ballot, so it is critical that we have your contact details up to date. Please ensure those details by logging into the members' area of our website.

If you are not already a member, join today and show that the civil service deserves to be valued just as much as the rest of the public sector.

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