Welcome to this year’s round up of the AGM.
As always, we covered a huge amount of ground this year with motions on; pay, engagement, PMR, Building our Future, careers and trainees among others. You can read the debates and decisions elsewhere this month, but I got the opportunity to make two little bits of history of my own. I cast the only chairman’s casting vote that I, and I think anyone else, can remember and I also managed to finish AGM an hour earlier than usual. Whilst I would love to take the credit for the early finish, I didn’t do it alone. It was down to the goodwill, discipline and forbearance of our representatives and I would just like to thank those of you who were there for making my first AGM the outstanding success that it was.
Throughout my career, in fact throughout my life, I have always tried to keep the simple maxim “Prepare for every eventuality but expect the unexpected” in mind. It is easy to get blasé after a while in most jobs but one of the many great things about my day job in tax investigation is that you genuinely do not know what is around the corner. You often think you know the answer; you are regularly disabused of that.
So to AGM, I had everything covered; I had read the procedures, I had the rules, I studied Citrine. The motions? I knew them backward. Nothing could knock me off my stride. One hour in and everything was going smoothly and then – a motion on whether managers should or should not have greater input into job applications; pretty mundane. To be honest though, I was not sure what way I would vote on this, so I thought; go with the flow and listen to the debate. I called the mover and two or three other speakers; nobody spoke against the proposition, the closest we came to an opponent was Sarah Guerra who raised concerns about diversity issues. I moved to a vote – much to my surprise it was a dead heat!
“Much to my surprise it was a dead heat! I have lost count of the number of conferences I have attended but I have never before seen a tie.”
I have lost count of the number of conferences I have attended but I have never before seen a tie, what was particularly surprising about this one was that there had been no debate. Neither have I seen a chairman use a casting vote; it’s rare but it happens, just not in my experience. The convention is to vote with the status quo; I followed convention and the motion was lost. ARC policy is not to call for greater managers input into the job application process.
Ok this was perhaps not the most exciting story I have ever shared but it was an odd little moment and a genuine surprise to many in the room. A resolution which, on the face of it was not controversial was ultimately lost. I must say that I am not comfortable with this; if a democratic process is to work as intended then there should on an occasion like this have been a debate. There was no debate but a decision was reached. Was it the right one? On the one hand it was; the purpose of the rules of AGM and of chairmanship is to allow for a conclusion to be reached whatever the circumstances, the rules worked and a decision was reached. But, without having heard the reasoning of the half of the room who voted against a proposition upon which I found myself undecided, on this occasion I really don’t know. What I do know is that you cannot take opinion for granted. We really do need to capture the voice of all of our members in whichever way we can; those that you can hear and those, who despite holding strong views, choose to hold them quietly. How do we do that? Can we do that? What are the channels to allow us to address those things? I throw these statements out there I have many ideas but I do not have a clear answer.
We organise meetings, we speak to as many of you as we can, we survey you periodically, we have two regular publications and we have ARC Forum. These are all useful methods of capturing opinion but every method we use requires an element of self-selection on the part of the end user to engage. The key to an organisation such as ours is that we must try to better capture that collective voice in every way that we can. ARC members are a thoughtful and considerative body of people not always given to making a lot of noise. But strong opinions quietly held must not be ignored. For that principle reason we are developing a number of new ways of communicating with you. The Information ARC has now bedded down and the feedback we are getting for those bite size pieces of information is really good. But we want to do a whole lot better. In next month’s arcnews we will be starting a new regulate update piece where we will be reporting back on the resolutions which have been passed this year. All on Committee have been asked to take charge of the delivery of specific areas of the work that you have tasked us to undertake and each we will be telling you how we have delivered on that. On top of that we have now completed our tendering exercise for arcnews and our new website. We will be pressing ahead with its production and will be using it to host a new updated version of the Forum. Finally, and perhaps most radically we are now looking at ways to change the nature of AGM itself.
“We have so far considered and obtained quotes from; Loughborough, Nottingham, Warwick and York universities.”
A London-based AGM becomes ever more expensive and in that context we believe that we should be obtaining the best value for money that we can for you, our members. But more important than that; we believe that we, as a union, should be a national and less London centric organisation, taking our AGM out to you our members is one real tangible way of demonstrating that. We may even be pathfinders for our employer. We are currently considering a number of venues outside of the capital on university campuses around the country which are large enough to accommodate the numbers we need for AGM and Dinner. This is a big undertaking and we are making sure that we get things right. We have so far considered and obtained quotes from, Loughborough, Nottingham, Warwick and York universities and are now in the process of visiting each to gauge the facilities available. We will see how it goes next year and how it works.
Finally, in the spirit of change I would also like to spare a few paragraphs to cover the momentous decisions taken at this year’s FDA ADC. After perhaps the best debate I have ever had the pleasure to have heard and taken part in we took the historic decision to open up our rules to allow us to extend membership of FDA to HO and SO colleagues (see “Introducing Keystone” on page 10).
This has been a long time coming but it is my fervent belief, supported by the almost unanimous view of conference, that there is much that a union such as ours can offer to colleagues who share a similar outlook in terms of their relationship with their employer and of the advantage that a progressive trade union can bring to their working lives. We will attract new members from a constituency of people who do not feel an affinity with other existing unions and who, as a consequence, are not currently a member of any.
What we are offering is right both for our current members and for those that will join us. In designing a structure attractive to new colleagues we have also been careful not to unbalance the excellent service that our existing ARC and FDA members have long enjoyed.
FDA is a federal organisation; in some areas such as in HMRC, we are organised around a single employer. In others we are organised by reference to professional groups across a number of departments. What all of our constituencies have in common is a strong identity with their colleagues. We in ARC are a large and distinct group within FDA and associate primarily with others of us in HMRC but we are by no means unique in that outlook. Our new colleagues, whilst sharing our broader world view, have issues that are unique to them as a group and that is why it is essential that they too have their own strong and distinct identity within FDA. Our new HO/SO section organised right across the civil service will provide the strong identity in a strong section within a strong FDA that has served us so well in the past.
I know that you will all join me in welcoming our new colleagues to our union