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Thursday 08 December 2022

Fast Streamers prepare for industrial action

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The FDA’s Fast Stream section is preparing to launch a statutory postal ballot on strike action after an indicative vote showed strong support for action over pay.

The vote, which took place in November, showed 81% support for industrial action on a turnout of 67%. This came after FDA members in the Fast Stream overwhelmingly rejected a pay uplift of 3% over the summer.

FDA National Officer for the Fast Stream, Lauren Crowley, explained that the FDA has been pressing for “the Fast Stream’s long-term structural pay issues to be addressed through a pay business case submitted this year, but the employer has refused to consider this”. She also pointed to the fact that the employer had indicated it was planning to submit a business case but subsequently u-turned on that decision:

“Instead, with inflation running in double figures and a cost-of-living crisis compounding the existing poor deal for Fast Streamers, our members were offered a pay uplift which leaves many of our members struggling to make ends meet.” 

Although further talks were held with the employer and the Cabinet Office, including FDA General Secretary Dave Penman meeting with Civil Service Chief Operating Officer Alex Chisholm, the employer refused to amend the pay offer. As a result, Crowley said: “We have now reached the conclusion that we have exhausted opportunities to resolve this through negotiation”.

She acknowledged that any decision to strike “will be a hugely difficult one for our members”, but added that the current situation is “completely unacceptable and unsustainable”. 

“Fast Streamers carry out vital roles in ensuring the smooth functioning of government and delivery of public services, yet are so poorly paid they are skipping meals and relying on family just to get by. This cannot go on.” 

A survey carried out by the FDA earlier this year of Fast Streamers – both FDA members and others – showed that one in nine had a second job, over a third still had to live with family, and half of them relied on financial support from their family just to get by. The survey, which half of all those on the Fast Stream responded to, highlighted that four in every five reported pay as having a negative impact on their wellbeing, and a huge seven in eight had considered leaving the scheme as a result.

The FDA continues to campaign for the necessary structural changes to the broken pay system, and has been fighting for a deal that would see Fast Stream pay aligned with the pay band minimum of Cabinet Office HEOs by 2024. Crowley explains that “the Year 1 Fast Stream salary has not changed in five years. Since 2010, the Fast Stream starting salary has gone from £27,000 to £28,000 - a rise of only 3.7% in 12 years. By contrast, in the same period the minimum pay for Cabinet Office HEOs has gone up by 15.6% nationally and 15.9% in London.”

Following the escalation of the dispute, the employer has now made a firm commitment to submit a pay flexibility case for implementation in 2023-24, which would represent a first step in addressing structural pay issues. However, Crowley concluded that, while this did represent some progress, “it does not go far enough to address the substantial increases in cost of living that our members are struggling to cope with”.

Ballot papers are likely to reach members around mid-December, and the ballot will close on 16 January.
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