Police threaten industrial action over government’s pay offer

Published by the Sunday Herald Sun on 24 November 2019

Victoria’s police union is threatening industrial action next month unless the state government’s “outrageously offensive” pay offer improves. However, the union’s boss says “talks have effectively collapsed”.

Victoria’s powerful police union has declared war on the Andrews Government and will launch widespread industrial action next month unless it improves its “outrageously offensive” pay offer.

Ballots have been sent to the state’s 17,200 unionised officers to approve action including writing messages on police cars, stopping handing out speeding fines, campaigning at railway stations and rallying at state parliament.

Police Association boss Wayne Gatt told the Sunday Herald Sun that “talks have effectively collapsed” because the government will not budge on its 2 per cent cap on annual wage rises.

“The government is more than comfortable standing up when it suits to compliment, to praise, to recognise things like reductions in crime and the dangerous work our members do,” he said.

“It’s now time to pay it forward and reward those people and compensate them fairly for the work that they’re doing.”

The current four-year workplace agreement expires next Saturday, and Mr Gatt said police officers were “absolutely offended” by the government’s “paltry wage deal” when they were “working harder than they ever have”.

If officers vote in favour of industrial action, it will also include refusing to work overtime without prior approval, placing full-sized cutouts of officers in station foyers to show how many extra staff are needed, and showing up to schools when they are not dealing with incidents to help kids cross the road.

A government spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to work with police on a fair and responsible enterprise bargaining agreement that reflects the work our police do for our community.”

Mr Gatt said negotiations with Victoria Police had progressed but that “everybody has their hands tied behind their back” because of the government’s efforts to limit public sector wage increases, as it also negotiates new deals for paramedics, firefighters and other public servants.

“The government is forcing our hand,” he said.

“The only thing that’s going to stop (industrial action) is direct, decisive intervention by the government so that we can get on with doing what we actually want to do and that’s keeping Victorians safe.”

“Police deserve better than to be treated this way. I think the community would expect the government would treat them with more dignity.”

Mr Gatt said officers would be prepared to “take whatever action is required for as long as it is to make sure they are dealt with fairly and with respect”.

 

By Tom Minear