Fast streamers could become the next group of civil servants to plan strike action, after union talks with the Cabinet Office's Fast Stream and Emerging Talent programme over its offer of a 3% pay rise reached an impasse.
The FDA union is gearing up to launch an indicative ballot on strikes, CSW can reveal, after 95.5% of its Fast Stream members said they would not accept the 3% rise offered by FSET this summer.
The vast majority – 86.3% – of fast streamers who took part in the FDA's consultative poll said they would be willing to walk out to secure an increase above 3%.
The FDA said negotiations with government over pay for fast streamers has now “been exhausted”, and it will soon be launching an indicative ballot on strike action, with a statutory ballot likely to follow.
The warning comes as after around 100,000 members of the PCS union voted to strike over pay and other employment terms, with 86.2% of civil servants who voted backing industrial action.
The FDA, which represents mid-to-senior-level civil servants, polled its Fast Stream members this summer on whether they would accept a 3% pay increase and if they would be willing to take industrial action to get a higher rise.
After members overwhelmingly rejected the offer, the FDA, which represents mid-to-senior-level civil servants, attempted to negotiate a higher deal with FSET.
But Lauren Crowley, the union's national officer for the Fast Stream, said: “Despite further talks with the employer and the Cabinet Office, they have refused to amend their offer. We have now reached the conclusion that we have exhausted opportunities to resolve this through negotiation.”
“The FDA has consistently pressed 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," Crowley said.
“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 of just 3% which leaves many of our members struggling to make ends meet.
A separate poll of Fast Stream civil servants – which included non-union members – by the FDA this summer found deep concerns over pay. Half of the 818 responses fast streamers who responded said they were relying on financial support from their family, 95% feeling undervalued and one in nine having a second job.
Seven out of 10 said they want their pay to be equal or comparable to equivalent non-Fast Stream roles across the civil service. Four in five said pay has a negative impact on their wellbeing, and around two-thirds rejected FSET's claim that the learning and development opportunities they receive make up for low pay. Additionally, seven out of eight said they had considered leaving the Fast Stream over low pay.
“Any decision to strike will be a hugely difficult one for our members, but the current situation is completely unacceptable and unsustainable,” Crowley said.
“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, and that is why we are now taking the next step towards industrial action by launching an indicative ballot of FDA Fast Stream members.”
The FDA’s steps towards industrial action follow significant movement from other civil service unions.
PCS held a national statutory ballot is set to lead to strikes at 126 government employers unless ministers make "significant" steps to meet its demands, which include an across-the-board pay rise of 10% and a halt to attempts to reduce redundancy payouts.
Prospect, which represents public sector professionals, has also taken steps towards industrial action recently. The union is holding an online indicative ballot of its civil service members to gauge whether they want to take strike action over pay, staffing and redundancy terms.
A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to engaging with staff and the unions on this issue.
"Public sector pay awards must strike the balance between recognising our excellent public sector workers whilst delivering value for the taxpayer and keeping government spending at affordable levels."
Fast Stream "back and better"
Meanwhile, with Fast Stream set to be relaunched next month after it was paused as part of now-scrapped plans to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, the grad scheme website now includes an update on what has changed.
The Fast Stream website says: “Recruitment to the Fast Stream was paused while the government looked at different options for reducing costs. During this period work to reform and improve the scheme continued – resulting in the implementation of a better core training offer and more efficient delivery model.
“Following this work, we are excited to announce the Fast Stream will resume recruitment for 2023 in December.
“Keep an eye on the Fast Stream website for more details on the recruitment window. If you have previously expressed interest in the Fast Stream restart date, we will contact you directly as soon as possible.”