FDA union looks to extend reach below top civil service grades

Written by Matt Foster on 24 July 2015 in News

Union – which currently represents the most senior tiers of the civil service – launches new organisation aiming to expand into HEO and SEO grades

The FDA union is looking to extend its reach further into the civil service by launching a new organisation for officials at SEO and HEO level.

The union currently represents around 18,000 senior officials in the top tiers of the service – those at Senior Civil Service (SCS) level, and those working in Grades 6 & 7. 

But the new union – dubbed "Keystone" – will allow higher executive officers and senior executive officers to become full members of the FDA. The organisation says it is not aiming to "compete with other unions for members".

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In a letter to existing FDA members, general secretary Dave Penman (pictured) said the expansion marked a "major development" for his union.

"As the civil and public services have changed, so too has the FDA," he said. 

"Whilst the FDA originated in the senior grades of the civil service, it now has as many members below grade 7 level as it has in the SCS

"The changing membership of FDA has been the subject of much debate within the union over the past few years. This reached a conclusion in May this year, when our annual conference agreed to introduce rule changes that will fully open membership to those in the HEO, SEO and related grades. Today we are launching a new section of the union for those grades, called Keystone."

However, the move could prove controversial with other civil service unions, as it will open up the possibility of FDA membership to officials currently represented by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union. 

The FDA has said it is not the intention of Keystone to move into territory occupied by other organisations.

"In the civil service, a number of unions represent staff at the same grade and potential members face a choice of which union they feel is most appropriate," the Keystone website tells potential new recruits. 

"The aim of Keystone is to build union density in the civil service rather than compete with other unions for members."

But Civil Service World understands that the PCS – the largest of the civil service unions with more than 200,000 public sector members – has already raised concerns with the FDA over the new organisation.

In May, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka used an article in the Morning Star newspaper to warn of "division and competition" among unions representing civil servants.

"Our movement’s longstanding inter-union agreements over how to organise across the economy are essential because we need united collective organisation in workplaces to advance our members’ interests," he wrote.

On Friday, PCS raised the prospect of "coordinated strike action" over chancellor George Osborne's confirmation that civil service pay rises are to be capped at 1% until at least 2019.

"Our national executive believes that public sector pay policy requires a co-ordinated response from public sector trade unions, including industrial action," a statement from the union said. PCS has promised a "major consultation exercise" on public sector pay in the autumn

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tom (not verified)

Submitted on 24 July, 2015 - 14:39
This is very interesting, and the first I've heard. As an HEO, what I'm looking for in a union is support, representation and muscle. But I'm also looking for an organisation that is closely linked to the wider labour movement. Unfortunately this last is not available to me as a civil servant; PCS is not affilliated with labour and therefore has little political clout. So there may be no good reason for me to stick with PCS if an alternative is available. Let's see what the subs are! (By the way, the starting a sentence with 'but' and the semi-colon were aimed at Mr Gove. But I'm sure he already knows that)

Dave Pencilman (not verified)

Submitted on 24 July, 2015 - 14:40
PCS does an oustanding job for AA-AO grades, but you tend to find it's reps tend to play on the 'us vs them' approach a lot, with no real appreciation of the issues experienced by middle managers. If these guys have something better to offer, let's see what it is, rather than just dismiss it in the interest of keeping more fees in PCS's coffers.

Ringo Gebbie (not verified)

Submitted on 24 July, 2015 - 22:38
Shamelessly & slavishly following a right-wing agenda & attempting to poach another Union's members at the same time! Very naughty! Concerns should be raised at the TUC.

Nic MoJ (not verified)

Submitted on 27 July, 2015 - 13:45
I suspect that this will be very attractive to many HEO/SEO as the PCS has continued to treat our grades (even as PCS members) as 'well off', which is far from the truth. The flip side being , do the FDA really care about these grades or is this a numbers game ?

Civil but not S...

Submitted on 5 August, 2015 - 11:34
I am very likely to join Keystone as I increasingly find the PCS to be irrelevant to me. On a couple of occasions that I have sought advice from them, it has been difficult to find a rep with a proper overview, and in depth knowledge of my Dept, and some specific issues, and, as a Manager, I have experienced a local rep giving wrong advice and others holding up my (uncontroversial) consultation despite me being open, honest and timely in my dealing's with them. Quite simply, the PCS seems to lack the quality of people to effectively represent HEO's and SEO's. So, there is that and their obvious political position and some of their internal political infighting...I am sick of getting their annual election literature in which the bulk of the candidates also tell me to vote for their fellow 'Left Unity' or whoever candidates. Fact is, I want TU representation not political representation; I can join a political party for that!. 'Moderate' is almost a dirty word within the PCS which seems to have little interest in properly representing the views of those within that particular scope; in fact they seem to view 'Mods' as another enemy within. However, with an increasing proportion of HEO/SEO's being young graduates with varying political views, it is the PCS that is shooting itself in the foot because it does not offer such people anything they can relate to. That is why the FDA recognises that there is a need to offer such people real representation in line with their career aspirations not their political positions.

Anna_45 (not verified)

Submitted on 17 May, 2016 - 17:49
You nailed it! You must be in my head.Spot on; I have had same experiences and views.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 15 March, 2016 - 20:03
but the FDA has to launch a new separatist organisation for HEOs/SEOs. This is not right as it is separatist and continues to show snobbery, with the higher grades looking down at the lower grades. It doesn't matter what grade you are. What matters is how much understand the public and how well you get along with people and deliver.

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