(Apr 2010) BAFF launched in September 2008 its ongoing campaign for statutory recognition of a staff association for armed forces personnel. This was followed by a successful parliamentary reception in May, 2009. By request, we will publish a representative selection of the replies from MPs to the letter below. Also available: BFBS Forces Radio interview about launch of recognition campaign 26/09/08.
BAFF letter to every Westminster MP:
Statutory recognition of a staff association for the British Armed Forces
During the next parliamentary session, as a staff association, we will be pushing for statutory provision for the recognition of a staff association for serving members of the armed forces. I am writing to ask for your support.
Our Armed Forces are now more widely committed than at any time in recent history. We recognise the efforts that have been made by the chain of command and the Ministry of Defence in dealing with a limited budget, but problems remain, including poor - sometimes appalling - living conditions, fighting personnel being sent into combat with sub-standard kit, and those discharged as a result of serious injury being inadequately compensated and left to the NHS post-code lottery.
Some argue that the Military Covenant has been broken beyond repair: a report by the defence select committee in July 2008 called for urgent action.
We believe that the real needs of our Armed Forces have been overlooked in recent years, resulting in an urgent requirement to change the law to allow collective representation via a staff association fully recognised by the government.
Unlike the police service, our armed forces are prohibited from joining a union or having any staff association to make representations about pay and conditions and offer support on work-related issues. The defence select committee report underlined the negative effect this lack of collective representation has on morale, commitment and retention of high quality military personnel at all levels.
We are calling for there to be recognition of a staff association in the armed forces similar in status to the Police Federation. This would enable representation for different groups and ranks, a statutory right to be consulted and protection for representatives and for the recruitment of members. We would expect the staff association to be prohibited from calling any industrial action or causing disaffection and we would also expect it to be banned from commenting on or questioning operational decisions (indeed such prohibitions are already reflected in our own constitution).
Many senior officers privately agree this should change and they accept the concept of a staff association, yet most will not publicly support the idea nor do they encourage membership by serving personnel. Neither has the MoD encouraged such an organisation, sometimes allowing the Army to provide links to our website but sometimes presenting the establishment of a staff association as undermining the chain of command.
The defence select committee said in their July 2008 report that they were open-minded about the benefits of such an organisation, but were concerned that the MoD is not. The committee recommended that "the MoD considers more constructively the possible benefits which may be gained from an independent Armed Forces Federation, and encourage the MoD to consult with the British Armed Forces Federation. " Ironically, despite it coming from such an influential cross-party committee, the MoD left it to their media staff to reject this reasonable recommendation.
As our record during the past two years demonstrates, we in BAFF are keen to support the chain of command in its efforts to improve the lives of service personnel and their families. We did not form BAFF to undermine the armed forces, but to improve terms and conditions of service for all.
We believe the time is right for change. By ensuring our armed forces have a staff association, there can be a safety valve for services concerns, a voice for service personnel in consultations and, where necessary, a public mouthpiece.
I urge you to support our campaign for statutory recognition of a staff association to ensure fair and equitable treatment for the hard-pressed members of our armed forces.