UK senior civil servants mount organised challenge to politician bullies
British senior civil servants have voted to collectively oppose the use of intimidating and inflammatory language by politicians and could seek legal action to tackle the bullying of officials.
The decision to mount the challenge comes after Dominic Raab resigned from the role of deputy prime minister in April following multiple bullying claims against him. He took aim at what he called “unionised officials” and claimed civil servants were too sensitive to his management style. Media attacks on civil servants have also been mounted by Jacob Rees-Mogg, an MP and former Cabinet minister, in recent months.
Read more: Is dealing with aggressive ministers now the reality for UK officials?
Members of the FDA union, who are senior civil servants, passed a motion to use “all means” available to combat the harassment of officials by ministers and members of parliament. This includes “targeted legal action” relating to specific claims against individuals.
At the FDA annual conference, civil servants also voted to mandate the union to challenge “inflammatory language and unfair characterisations of the civil service, both publicly and privately and via media engagements”.
Read more: Maude review to call for more ‘robust culture’ after Raab resignation
US bill proposes agencies hire senior officials in charge of emerging tech
A bill has been introduced in the US that would require certain federal agencies to put a senior official in charge of overseeing the use of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology and quantum computing.
The aim of the Oversee Emerging Technology Act – which was introduced by Michael Bennet, the senator for Colorado – is to equip up to 24 agencies with specialist staff to manage the implementation of innovative new tools. These senior officials would be tasked with advising agency colleagues on standards governing the use of emerging technologies.
According to the announcement, the bill would require agency heads to charge their expert hires with “providing expertise on responsible policies and practices [as well as] collaborate with officials and coordinating bodies across the federal government and offer input for responsible procurement policies”.
If the bill was passed, each agency would have a window of around 180 days to hire an emerging technology leader and inform US Congress of what their mandate and authorities entail.
“The federal government should lead by example to ensure its use of emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, aligns with our democratic values,” Bennet said.
He added: “This bill creates clear accountability across federal agencies, charging senior officials with overseeing the responsible adoption and development of new technology.”
Read more: ChatGPT a threat to national security, warns Pentagon AI chief
UK civil servants vote to continue strike action
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have voted to renew its mandate to maintain industrial action throughout the year to secure a better deal on pay and conditions.
Members voted 88% in favour of continuing what the union called “sustained action in targeted areas”. The result follows months of discord between the PCS and the government and strikes across Whitehall departments including the Border Force, Passport Office and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said the vote showed members “will not tolerate being treated worse than anyone else in the public sector”.
“After six months of strike action, the government might have hoped our members would go quietly back to work, but ministers have under-estimated our members’ strength, determination and resolve,” he said.
“Unless ministers put more money on the table, they will see more high-profile disruptive action over the summer, leading into autumn.”
The PCS is the UK’s biggest union of civil servants, with 200,000 members.
UK nurses have also announced that they will cast a similar vote on further strike action, having rejected a revised pay offer from the government.
Read more: Canadian public service strike ends as deal reached over pay
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