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Friday 06 December 2019

Fast Stream Section: Give us a mandate – vote in our ballot

By FDA Fast Stream Section
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A message from the FDA Fast Stream Section to Fast Stream civil servants.

Something important is quietly taking place this week. After a pay dispute with the Cabinet Office that formally began on 11 November (but has been softly rumbling on for the past year), the FDA Fast Stream Section is holding an indicative ballot on industrial action.

The ballot comes after the section’s members voted by an overwhelming 99.69% to reject the Cabinet Office’s 2019 pay award, which only offered a 0.5-1.5% pay increase – not even the 2% most other civil servants will receive. An Extraordinary General Meeting was held on Monday 25 November, and the move to a ballot was passed unanimously.

This is the first time the section has balloted on anything close to industrial action, and it is something that the FDA as a union never does lightly. It is a testament to the seriousness of the situation that members are discussing it.

From the outside this might seem like a drastic step, but those who have been following the section’s campaigning for the last year will understand that this is the last resort of a group of employees who have been disregarded by the Cabinet Office time and time again.

The past twelve months has seen many Fast Stream employees thrown into EU Exit work, sometimes at less than a week’s notice, working evenings and weekends, with no clear course for claiming overtime. We estimate that roughly a third of central Fast Stream staff are now in EU critical roles.

The last year has also seen a cut in performance pay for Fast Stream staff, at a time when most are required to take on more responsibility, with greater public scrutiny than ever before.

And it has seen seen not one, but two pay awards where the Cabinet Office has failed to recognise that the current mechanisms for administering Fast Stream pay results in staff on the first year of the scheme receiving nothing, and those in the scheme’s third year receiving awards of less than £100 for the whole year.

What we have not seen is a fair and meaningful increase in pay. The Fast Stream starting salary has remained static at £28,000 since 2016, and the uplift Fast Stream employees receive after being assessed to be at substantive-SEO level has been frozen at £32,000 since 2015. The Fast Stream team at the Cabinet Office wrote to Fast Stream staff this time last year, indicating an intention to announce the result of a pay review in the summer. Close to a year later, Fast Stream staff are still waiting to hear the outcome of that review.

The mandate we’ve had so far from members through the pay award ballot and our next steps survey has brought the Cabinet Office to the negotiation table and last week. We had a constructive discussion with them on the issues around Fast Stream pay, and we want a good outcome, but we cannot afford to take one for granted. That is why we need you to vote in this indicative ballot to keep our mandate in these negotiations strong.

This ballot is an important opportunity for all Fast Stream members to tell the Cabinet Office that they will not stand to be used as a cheap, expendable resource. If the Fast Stream is meant to be an investment in the civil service’s future, then it needs to invest in that future and give its employees a fair and meaningful pay rise this year.

The FDA Fast Stream Section ballot will close 12pm Tuesday 10 December.
To vote in the ballot, please go to:
Fast Stream members will need to be logged in to the members area to vote.
If you are not currently a member, but would like to join the union and make sure your voice is heard, visit www.fda.org.uk/join. Fast Stream civil servants receive the first six months of their FDA membership absolutely free.
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