Senior civil servants declare work is ‘no longer a place’ as they mount open revolt over the Government’s ‘condescending’ plan to get workers back in the office

  • The FDA – a union for senior and mid-tier civil servants – will meet on Thursday
  • Leaked agenda shows a revolt against the Government’s push for office working
  • The union is expected to ‘mandate’ its leaders resist demands from ministers
  • Union’s leader is also expected to call on the Prime Minister and other members of the Government to stop the ‘culture war’ against civil servants

Senior civil servants have declared that work is ‘no longer a place’ as they revolt against the Government’s ‘condescending’ plans to get workers back to the office.

According to The Telegraph, hundreds of senior and mid-level civil servants working across seven government departments have supported motions that will call for a flexible working future at a union conference in London on Thursday.

The agenda for the FDA’s conference says it will ‘mandate’ its leaders to ‘resist resist indiscriminate demands from the Government for civil servants return to office-based working,’ the newspaper reported.

The FDA represents senior staff and mid-tier staff in the service. 

Its leaders will be urged to ‘resist directives from ministers’ that tell workers where they should be working from without taking each individual case into account.

The agenda also says civil servants are feeling ‘pressurised’ by government officials to return to their offices in Whitehall, without outlining what benefits this will bring the workers or their employers.

Mandarins are also growing unhappy with the government ‘thrashing’ the ‘brand’ of the civil service, the Telegraph reported the agenda as saying.

Government departments calling on union leaders to resist such demands include the Department for Education, Government Legal Department, and the West Midlands HMRC branch.

In response to the report, a government spokesperson said: ‘The Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary have been clear they want to see office attendance across the civil service consistently back at pre-pandemic levels and we are seeing significant increases in occupancy which continues to be closely monitored.

‘There is total agreement across government on there being clear benefits from face-to-face, collaborative working and we know that this is particularly important for the learning and development of new and junior members of staff.’  

Senior civil servants have declared that work is ‘no longer a place’ as they revolt against the Government’s ‘condescending’ plans to get workers back to the office. Civil service union leader Dave Penman will specifically single out Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured on Wednesday) for his ‘crass, condescending, passive-aggressive little notes’

The Telegraph said that of the 32 motions that will be made at the conference, six will call for home-working to stay. Civil servants are arguing that working from home brings a better work-live balance while increasing productivity. 

One motion, backed by the Department of Transport’s union branch, has called on ‘location neutral working’ – which would give workers freedom to choose where to work from.

Another, backed by Home Office branches – among others – said workers should be allowed to ask to change their workplace from the office to home permanently.

Citing an FDA source, the Telegraph said its 19,000 members are in support of the motion to keep home-working, and it is expected to become union policy. 

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, is also expected to take an extraordinary swipe at Jacob Rees-Mogg at the conference.

Mr Penman will tell delegates that the Government is ‘going to war’ with the very people he said were delivering its agenda.

He will single out Mr Rees-Mogg – the Minister for Government Efficiency – for his ‘crass, condescending, passive-aggressive little notes for people who were actually delivering vital public services’.

The minister, who has said civil servants should stop working from home, left a note for civil servants, saying ‘sorry you were out when I visited’.

The note, printed on government paper with Mr Rees-Mogg’s title, was left at empty desks and read ‘I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.’

Dave Penman (pictured), general secretary of the FDA, is also expected to take an extraordinary swipe at Jacob Rees-Mogg at the conference

Mr Penman will say it was hard to imagine a time in the FDA’s 100-year history when the union has been needed more by civil servants.

In a message for the Prime Minister, Mr Penman will say: ‘You say you want a brilliant civil service and you want to attract the brightest and best to join it.

‘Well, this is not the way to go about it.

‘Challenge us to deliver, be clear about your priorities, but step back and let those whose job it is to run the service get on with it.

‘No more micro-managing, no more anonymous briefings. You do your job and let the management of the civil service get on with theirs.’

Mr Penman will tell delegates it was good to be meeting in person, adding: ‘There’s some in government and the press who may doubt that I actually mean that.

Jacob Rees-Mogg left this note for civil servants who he found not to be in the office

‘It feels like for the last two years all I’ve ever been asked about is the latest anonymous briefing about civil servants working from home.

‘There are some who want to paint a picture of the civil service, and this union, as advocating for 100% home working regardless of the nature of the job.

‘There are those who talk about working from home or the office as a binary choice, because that suits their agenda, which has little to do with the best way to run public services.’

Mr Penman will say that while private industry has embraced the ‘quiet revolution’ in working practices over the past two years, delivering efficiencies for employers and greater flexibility for employees, Jacob Rees-Mogg has been ‘wandering around Whitehall with his clip board and his clicker counting people at desks’.

He will add: ‘It’s like he doesn’t understand that the majority of civil servants are outside of the M25.

‘Tens of thousands of civil servants in those famous red wall seats, all being told to forget about flexible working.’

On public sector pay, Mr Penman will say that applause will not pay gas bills.

‘As we face the worst cost-of-living crisis since the 1970s, the response from Government has been simply business as usual for public sector pay.

‘Inflation may well hit 10% by the autumn, but in the civil service the Treasury have determined that the going rate for pay rises will be around 2%.

‘After a decade of wage freezes followed by caps followed by a pause, civil servants’ salaries have already fallen by 18% in real terms.

‘So not only will the Government’s policy result in real hardship this year, the civil service will simply fall further behind the private sector.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘The Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary have been clear they want to see office attendance across the civil service consistently back at pre-pandemic levels and we are seeing significant increases in occupancy which continues to be closely monitored.

The meeting agenda said that civil servants are feeling ‘pressurised’ by government officials to return to their offices in Whitehall (pictured, file photo), without outlining what benefits a return will bring the workers or their employers

‘There is total agreement across government on there being clear benefits from face-to-face, collaborative working and we know that this is particularly important for the learning and development of new and junior members of staff.’

News of the agenda came after plans to give staff a ‘default’ right to work from home were axed amid fears it would become impossible to get them back to their desks.

The long-awaited Employment Bill was among measures missing from Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech while others were toned down as contentious legislation was abandoned ahead of the next election.

Unions reacted with fury to the decision to drop the Employment Bill, with TUC chief Frances O’Grady accusing the Government of ‘turning its back on workers’.

But Mr Johnson said it was intolerable that families were unable to go on holiday because of passport processing delays and that HGV drivers could not get licences renewed.

‘Let me send a very clear message,’ the Prime Minister said. ‘This Government will not tolerate a post-Covid manana culture.’ 

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