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Fast track strike

25 January 2023

The Cabinet Office has shut the door on pay reform. Photo Howard Lake via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The pay struggle in the civil service is spreading. As well as the ongoing action by PCS members across several departments, other areas are now likely to take strike action.

Around 1,000 “Fast Stream” civil servants, members of the FDA, have overwhelmingly supported strike action, the union announced on 17 January. Nearly 90 per cent voted in favour, on a turnout of 60 per cent.

The Fast Stream is the main graduate entry scheme for the central civil service. It trains future senior civil servants – advising government ministers and running the service.

Empty promises

FDA national officer Lauren Crowley said, “our Fast Stream members have been absolutely clear – they will no longer put up with unfair pay…they are tired of empty promises when it comes to pay reform.”

FDA general secretary Dave Penman added that the dispute had been years in the making. Although exacerbated by the recent increase in the cost of living, it is a result of the Cabinet Office, which negotiates civil service pay on behalf of government, ignoring calls for reform over many years.


The strike vote follows rejection of a 3 per cent offer last year. The Fast Stream starting salary has increased by only £1,000 since 2010 – to £28,000. Minimum pay in other grades in the service has increased by over 15 per cent during that period.

Unless the Cabinet Office enters into negotiations and makes a meaningful offer, the FDA will announce strikes by its Fast Stream members – for the first time in their history.

‘Staff feedback is dominated by pay.’

Current senior civil servants are well aware that they can’t duck the pay issue across the whole service. Speaking to the Institute for Government on the day the FDA announced the ballot result, Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Antonia Romeo said staff feedback in the most recent annual survey was dominated by comments about pay and progression.

And the Prospect union, which represents engineers, scientists and other professionals in the civil service, is about to hold a formal ballot of more than 40 civil service employers such as the UK Health Security Agency and the Met Office later this month asking if they want to strike or take other action in support of their pay claims.

After unsatisfactory talks with the Cabinet Office ministers on 12 January, Prospect is set to join other government workers in taking action. An earlier indicative ballot showed over 90 per cent in favour of industrial action.