We're proud of our history
For close to a century, we've supported public services and the people who make them happen.
The FDA – known back then as the Association of First Division Civil Servants – formally came into being in January 1919. Right from the start, our rules stated that our purpose was to "promote the efficiency of the public service and to consider and deal with all matters affecting the classes of the civil service included in the Association". While those classes have long since been swept away, the commitment to public service efficiency remains enshrined in Rule 3 of the union to this day.
The FDA operated on a ‘case-and-maintenance’ basis during the Second World War, but the organisation’s trend towards unionisation continued in the aftermath of the conflict. The FDA established a pay and conditions sub-committee in 1946 and an advisory sub-committee on assistant principals’ pay in 1951. The FDA’s first full-time General Secretary, Norman Ellis, was appointed in 1974 and, in 1977, the union voted to join the TUC.
Our members took industrial action in 1979 and 1981, and the banning of trade unions at GCHQ in 1984 gave rise to our 13-year-long campaign to restore union rights there. John Ward became FDA General Secretary in 1980, and served in the role until 1988. During the 1980s, membership of the FDA continued to grow steadily and in 1988 the Association of Inspectors of Tax (AIT) – now the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC) – and the FDA merged.
Elizabeth Symons became our third General Secretary in 1989. She was in turn succeeded by Jonathan Baume, who was first elected General Secretary in 1997. In 2001, the union replaced its ‘Association of First Division Civil Servants’ title with ‘the FDA’, and all references in the FDA’s rules were changed from ‘association’ to ‘union’.
In 2002, we affiliated with the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Staff Association, while Managers in Partnership (MiP), an FDA-Unison joint venture representing senior managers in the NHS, was launched in June 2005. In September 2008 agreement was reached with the Security Service (MI5) for the FDA to provide professional industrial relations support to staff.
Our professional development project, FDA Learn, was launched in 2008 to help members meet their professional and personal development targets. The project works closely with employers, universities and external partners, and aims to provide the very best opportunities for members working in public service.
Members voted for national strike action on 30 November 2011, walking out over changes to public sector pensions.
Jonathan Baume retired from the FDA in autumn 2012, and former FDA Deputy General Secretary Dave Penman was elected unopposed to succeed him. Penman took up office in July 2012, and was elected to the TUC General Council in September 2012. He was re-elected as General Secretary in 2016, beginning a second, five-year term.
In 2013, we signed a new membership agreement with the Northern Ireland Public Services Alliance (NIPSA) trade union, setting new arrangements between the two unions to increase trade union membership within the separate Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS).
At the FDA’s 2015 Annual Delegate Conference, delegates voted to fully open up membership to Higher Executive Officer, Senior Executive Officer and related grades. Following this historic decision, we launched Keystone in July of the same year. Keystone members have access to all of the benefits of FDA membership, including advice and representation, a voice in the workplace, a strong career development offer called Keyskills, and the FDA Portfolio membership benefits package.
In February 2016, the FDA purchased a new headquarters building near London Bridge, helping to provide strong financial foundations for our future. Our new website was launched in 2018, and we will celebrate our first centenary in 2019.