Monday, March 21, 2005


A British diplomat speaks:

"The need for change was ducked for years. The reason it's had such a big impact is because this is an organisation that has not been used to change."

Surely, he's talking about the Foreign Office?

Actually, he's talking about locally employed staff at the British Embassy in Washington DC.

...most are British and some hold senior jobs. A number are the spouses of diplomatic personnel.*

Seems there is a little local dispute about pay cuts and deterioration of working conditions. It's led to staff applying to affiliate with a US labor union.

It's a year since I left the Civil Service, but I still risk breaching the Official Secrets Act. However, I think I can safely say that the embassy was the second most dysfunctional unit of the Civil Service in which I have worked. A cadre of staff were treated like second class citizens. They have no real employment rights (according to their employer) because of the status of the embassy. Yet, those staff are the institutional mind of the organisation. They stick around whilst diplomats swap in and out every 4 years or so. Many of them build up expertise and political knowledge essential to the running of British foreign policy. And, they form the bulk of the embassy softball team.

Not only does their employer believe that they have no rights, they have no career structure. They do have a pension scheme. However, a few years ago the embassy chose to take a "holiday" from contributing to the fund. Er, but they forgot to tell employees who continued to pay into the scheme.

There are lots of other stories. But, I think I better leave it at that for the time being. Hopefully, a current staff member is blogging this somewhere else.

Further links here and here.

* - speaking of spouses, the most scandalous news on the diplomatic front is that the Foreign Office pays private school fees for diplomats' children. That's right, the taxpayer funds private schooling for the Jocastas and Giles's of this world.

:: Posted by pete @ 21:49