24 August 2020 by FIA Team, FIA Team

Becoming a member of a trade association can seem like a passive act in which ‘you pays your money’ and scratch the surface to reveal a number of benefits that arise from your membership. At the FIA, we try to emphasise that it goes much deeper than this and that actually, it represents a real opportunity to engage with your fellow professionals and to shape the regulatory and legislative landscape of the industry to which you devote your working lives.      

Here at the FIA as with all trade associations, we act as the collective voice of the industry that we represent and in order to do that effectively, we must engage with its members and take their views into the outside world. The processes that we undertake are enabled by our esteemed members and supported by a structure of committees that brings industry experts together to define our programme of activities and to do the hard work necessary to drive the sector forward to further improve fire safety in the UK and indeed globally.

In case you’re unaware of the structure in detail of the FIA, the overall direction of the association is determined by the Board which comprises not only elected members but also the Chairs of each of our seven Councils. The Councils themselves act as the engine of the Association, achieving objectives within their specific fields and providing input into the FIA's Marketing and Liaison Groups as well as overseeing a good number of Working Groups and supplying delegates to a wide range of external bodies including Standards Committees. All this is possible through the commitment and dedication of those that serve on our Board, Councils and Working Groups.

As the Nomination Letters wing their way into people's inboxes, it's worth highlighting this process and its importance not just to us as the Association but to you as members. It's very easy to apply to become a candidate for the forthcoming elections, the results of which will be announced at the AGM in November, albeit this year as a virtual gathering. The Nomination Letter tells you all about how the elections work and has a very simple self-nomination form that needs to be returned to us within 21 days. It takes just a few minutes work and you've made yourself a candidate for your chosen Committee!

Do have a think about it and if you're not already involved, why not put yourself forward and be an integral part of what we're achieving as the concerted voice of the industry? The Councils meet quarterly and although work is assigned for completion between these, the commitment any individual gives depends on what you feel you can volunteer yourself for. The old adage applies, the more you put in, the more you get out!    

The Ballot Paper is then compiled and voting begins. If you're a lower turnover member, you have a great chance of being elected as some years ago, we discontinued a rather archaic system where votes were weighted in favour of the higher turnover companies and replaced it with a more equitable 'one member one vote'. Also, we introduced a guaranteed number of seats on each Committee for A/B, C/D and E/F membership grades such that candidates from smaller organisations can still be elected if the lower bands are not adequately represented based on the number of votes alone. Add to this a refresh process where elected members are subject to a one or two-year time limit after which they must apply for re-election alongside new candidates and we have what we believe to be a means of getting industry figures on our various committees on a fair and equitable basis.

In truth, the number of members that vote is lower than we would wish and some companies don't even vote for their own candidates! Obviously, if you don't know that particular sub-sector nor the candidates concerned, you cannot make an informed choice so it's fine to abstain and you certainly don't have to vote for all the categories. if you are in a position to cast a vote, however, we urge you to do so in order that we have the most democratic outcome possible. 

An important point here is that the Nomination Letter may not reach everyone in your organisation and voting must be undertaken by the Nominated Representative of each member company or their named proxy. It's vital, therefore, that you know who your NR is so if you don't know, put a call into the office on 020 3166 5002 and we can tell you in a matter of seconds. Note please that while you may need to see your NR to get the necessary information, the self-nomination forms can be completed and returned by the candidate themselves.

Thank you in advance to the new candidates for the positions up for election in November, thank you to those that are remaining with us for another year and thanks also to those that have automatically retired and need to re-apply to remain in position. The latter must fill in a self-nomination form to go through as a candidate, your seat will not automatically roll over!

We spoke initially about scratching the surface and how a deeper exploration yields so much greater involvement and fulfillment. Scratch cards are now a £3 bn industry in the UK, second in popularity as a shirt-loser to the National Lottery, with charities being beneficiaries although with only 5-16% going to charitable causes, it’s not quite the philanthropic exercise that many suppose. Applying for a place on an FIA committee is, however, far from a lottery but is rather a fully democratic process that enables you to play an active part in the work that we do on behalf of the fire industry.