The FDA has called for the Minister for the Cabinet Office
Michael Gove to publicly distance the government from a series of anonymous briefings
in the press, in which ministers attacked civil servants for working from home
and threatening to cut their pay unless they went back into workplaces.
In a letter to Gove, General Secretary Dave Penman said that
“these insulting and cowardly attacks require a response from government” due
to the “detrimental impact they are having across the civil service”.
Penman highlighted that throughout the pandemic civil servants
have “pioneered news ways of working” by transforming from office based to home
based almost overnight, “whilst at the same time delivering on the changing
priorities of government, including supporting over nine million workers in the
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and coping with a sixfold increase in
Universal Credit claims”.
“Yet those same civil servants have woken up today to
threats from anonymous cabinet ministers to cut their pay and a series of
denigrating remarks about their commitment and effectiveness whilst working
from home. I cannot impress upon you enough the upset and anger these comments
have caused among civil servants,” he explained.
The letter also highlights the inherent contradiction in
these briefings, as the government’s flagship Places for Growth Strategy is
predicated on greater flexible working and only last week the HMRC Leeds hub
welcomed eight new government departments as a result of hybrid working
reducing office space requirements.
Additionally, the General Secretary questioned the
suggestion from certain ministers that “face to face” meetings are critical to
your career: “If “face to face” time is so critical to careers, what message
should civil servants working in the Cabinet Office in Glasgow or HM Treasury
in Darlington take when, inevitably, they will have less “face to face” time
He ultimately called on Gove, as the Minister for the
Cabinet Office, to consider an urgent message to civil servants “publicly
distancing the government from the anonymous comments from cabinet ministers,
recognising their incredible achievements over the last 18 months and assuring
them of the government's commitment to a well-managed transition to the new
The FDA also firmly pushed back in an interview with Times Radio, with Penman accusing some in government of creating a “phoney war”
during parliamentary recess “to do a little bit of headline grabbing and civil service
bashing”, which “doesn’t actually reflect the actual world of the civil service
or across the broader economy”.
Committing to defend civil servants wherever they are
attacked, the General Secretary also debated with Nigel Farage on GB News, stressing
that it’s “not about going ‘back to work’, it’s about going back to the office”,
as people have been working throughout pandemic, whether that’s at home or in their
workplaces. He challenged Farage’s negative view of hybrid working, explaining
that the reason it’s being embraced by both public and private sector organisations
is because they’ve recognised that a hybrid arrangement “is an effective way to
“It works for employers and employees,” he said. “Employees
get greater flexibility – they don’t have the commute five days a week –
employers get reduced costs and, for the taxpayer, that means reduced costs in terms
of office accommodation. So, it’s a win-win for taxpayers, it’s a win-win for
civil servants, and it’s a win-win for employers and employees in the private sector.”
Quotes from the FDA were also reported in the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Express, Mail Online, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Morning Star, Civil Service World, the i, The Guardian, Left Foot Forward, the FT, the Evening Standard, the Times, Sky News and BBC News.