The latest UnionDues podcast takes a close look at our Civil Service – at times maligned and scapegoated by politicians during the pre-Covid period, but undoubted key workers and valued experts during it.
In an in-depth discussion, FDA National Officer Victoria Jones describes how the union was able to use local pressure from (particularly women) members to build a platform for a Civil Service-wide agreement on flexible working – but that is only the start of the story.
All negotiators will know that it is one thing to reach an agreement but another to see it implemented. Victoria discusses how implementation was frustrated by a culture that in places could only be described as “change resistant.”
The union commissioned research from the Global institute for Women’s Leadership that exposed the extend of the problem – contributions from those working flexibly were not weighed fairly and, worse, career development was being stifled.
Working with groups like Capability Jane and Pregnant Then Screwed, and using arrangements that already existed in the Civil Service on reasonable adjustments being made for staff who needed them, Victoria and colleagues were on the road to removing the barrier to flexible working when the Covid crisis hit.
On the one hand, this ultimate stress-test for flexible working put a wrecking ball through resistance to it – but on the other, the challenges and stress coronavirus has put upon the union and its members has been immense. Like many unions, the FDA responded positively and promptly to the challenge, including using wellbeing at work webinars, run by Thinking Alliance, have attracted audiences of up to 500.
One other positive aspect of the crisis has been the rehabilitation of experts, many of whom are FDA members, and a dialling-down of tension between ministers and Civil Servants (oft commented upon ion trenchant terms by FDA General Secretary Dave Penman).
It’s a fascinating insight into how a small but highly influential union has engaged with its members and responded to these unprecedented times.
Also in this episode,
- TUC National Organiser Carl Roper on what the latest union membership figures tell us (and you can sign up for the TUC’s Organising Festival here)
- The interim results of a new survey of union reps from the Labour Research Department
- Why looming job cuts, at BA and elsewhere, demand a Better Recovery and
- How proposals from the Law Commission could transform employment tribunals.
We have three more episodes in Series 1, and we aim to publish on three successive Tuesdays. Next up, on 9 May, we feature new BFAWU leader, Sarah Woolley.
You can access this and all episodes here. Please download, stream, share, comment, subscribed, rate but above all enjoy.