Tackling ministerial bullying

22 February 2010
For immediate release

FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume said:

"The FDA does not wish to comment on the specific allegations of bullying of civil servants in No.10 Downing Street.

"However, too often politicians have little idea about what is acceptable in a modern workplace, and the behaviour of some ministers and special advisers does falls short of what is acceptable on occasions. Every government department has clear and unambiguous anti-bullying policies. In theory these should cover ministers. However, in practice no civil servant is likely to make a formal complaint against a minister. Instead, concerns about the behaviour of a minister will be dealt with through informal channels.

"If informal action does not succeed then the civil servants concerned generally either have to 'grin and bear it' whilst the minister or special adviser remains in office, or seek a transfer.

"We should consider putting in place a better mechanism. All political parties could agree that their ministers and special advisers will sign up to departmental bullying codes after the General Election, which set out the necessary standards of behaviour, and ask Permanent Secretaries to enforce codes properly.

"The FDA is also struggling to make progress in introducing an anti-bullying code in the House of Commons. Such a policy exists between staff, but we need to set standards for the behaviour for MPs towards staff to help ensure effective working relationships. It is vital that MPs set an example in this area, and we still hope to have a code in place after the General Election."

Notes for editors:

1. The FDA is the trade union and professional body representing 18,000 of the UK's senior civil and public servants. Our members include policy advisors, senior managers, tax inspectors, economists, statisticians, accountants, special advisers, government lawyers, diplomats, crown prosecutors and NHS managers.

2. Members in HMRC are represented by the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC), a section of the FDA.

3. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".

4. For further information contact:

Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07976 951191.
Oliver Rowe, Communications Manager, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07590 838696.