Fast streamers vote to strike for first time ever over stagnant pay

FDA union says Fast Stream members are "tired of empty promises" after pay rises just 3.7% in 12 years
Photo: Cliff Hide General News/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

17 Jan 2023

Civil servants in the Fast Stream have voted to strike after years of "unfair pay".

Some 88% of FDA Fast Stream members who voted have backed industrial action in the statutory ballot, on a turnout of 60% – well above the necessary 50% threshold, the union announced this morning.

Close to 1,000 fast streamers could now join the civil servants in dozens of departments who are set to walk out next month in the latest wave of industrial action by fellow union PCS.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the Fast Stream dispute “has been years in making”.

“It may have been exacerbated by a cost-of-living crisis caused by events across the globe, but its origins are homegrown,” he said.

“We have been urging the Cabinet Office for years to address low pay in the Fast Stream, but there has been an abject failure to embrace meaningful reform. Instead, for far too long, the dedication and commitment of Fast Streamers has been exploited.

“Now some of our most talented public servants have been left with no alternative but to take strike action for the first time in the history of the scheme.”

The FDA has asked the Cabinet Office for an urgent meeting to attempt to resolve the dispute. The union will announce its first strike dates if further negotiations are unsuccessful, although it did not specify a deadline for these negotiations.

“Even at this late stage we remain willing to negotiate, but negotiations must be based on a meaningful offer on pay,” said Lauren Crowley, the FDA’s national officer for the Fast Stream.

FDA Fast Stream members rejected a pay rise of 3% this summer amid soaring inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

“Our Fast Stream members have been absolutely clear – they will no longer put up with unfair pay,” Crowley added.

“This result highlights the anger that our members are feeling, they are tired of empty promises when it comes to pay reform. I urge the employer to reflect on how it has allowed this to happen and take action now to ensure a fair deal for fast streamers.”

The FDA is pushing for Fast Stream pay to be aligned with the pay band minimum of Cabinet Office Higher Executive Officers by 2024.

The union said Fast Stream members came close to striking in 2019 but reached an agreement with the Cabinet Office that year.

Since 2010, the Fast Stream starting salary has gone from £27,000 to £28,000 – a rise of only 3.7% in 12 years. Minimum pay for Cabinet Office HEOs has gone up by 15.6% nationally and 15.9% in London, according to the FDA.

Last month, the FDA said the government had given up some ground on next year's pay offer (2023-24) by committing to submit a case for pay flexibility for fast streamers, but was still refusing to amend this year’s offer.

At that point, the FDA said it had exhausted negotiations over this year's dispute and launched the formal strike ballot, which ended yesterday.

The vote further escalates civil service strike action over pay, after PCS members began industrial action last month.

PCS kicked off its strike action in mid-December and will ramp up the pressure on government with a one-day strike on 1 February for all members in departments and agencies which voted to strike and met the 50% participation threshold. This could mean around 100,000 civil servants walking out at the same time.

Prospect could also soon join the wave of strikes in the civil service and across the public sector, as it is considering launching its own formal ballot later this month after members backed industrial action in an indicative vote last month.

Unions met with Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin last week but said the meeting “lacked anything concrete from the government” to address concerns over pay, pensions and redundancy terms.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We greatly value the work of fast streamers in the civil service and we are reviewing their pay terms as we have previously committed to. This work is ongoing.  

“We regret this decision to strike, but discussions will continue as part of our ongoing engagement with unions."

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