Police to warn drivers about speed cameras as pay fight escalates

Published by The Age on 12 December 2019

Victoria Police officers will flash their lights to warn drivers about speed cameras in a move designed to choke the government's fine revenue, as their fight for a pay rise escalates.

Police will launch industrial action on Monday after demands for a 4 per cent pay rise by the powerful police union were knocked back by the Andrews government.

Police officers will also plaster slogans on their vehicles, stop working unpaid overtime and stop compiling statistics and preparing advice for government departments and officials, except in emergencies.

In an unusual move, police will help children cross the road in school zones as a measure of support for the community, Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said.

The government is refusing to budge on its commitment to cap annual wage increases for all public sector workers at 2 per cent, which has placed enormous strain on its relationship with the Police Association.

But any concession to the police would prompt calls for similar pay increases from unions representing other public servants, which would punch a hole in the state budget.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas is due to provide a mid-year budget update on Thursday.

Many police officers have become increasingly frustrated by the government's willingness to take credit for a recent fall in crime rates, while reluctant to reward those responsible. The decision in September to grant an 11.8 per cent pay increase to Premier Daniel Andrews and his cabinet has fuelled further disquiet among members.

Mr Gatt said the union notified Chief Police Commissioner Graham Ashton on Tuesday of its intention to start protected industrial action.

"We are really disappointed that we are at a stage where we not only have to contemplate and had to inform the Chief Commissioner of this action. But members feel they have little choice," Mr Gatt said.

The union received overwhelming support for industrial action after a ballot of 17,200 members across the state.

"That [ballot] comes off the back of six months of negotiations during a process that has not crept up on anybody, not hit anybody by surprise. It's something everybody knew on was on the cards for four years," Mr Gatt said.

Mr Gatt said the industrial action would not "endanger or reduce public safety".

"Indeed the community should expect to see more of their police as a result of this action," he said.

Next week will be the first time police have taken industrial action since 2011, when the union was at loggerheads with the then-Baillieu government over pay and conditions.

Within days of the introduction of workplace bans, the Baillieu government nearly doubled its offer by approving a 4.5 per cent pay rise to officers.

Mr Gatt said next week's action would continue until this dispute was resolved.

On Wednesday, Police Minister Lisa Neville said the government was "intensively negotiating" with the police union to avoid strike action in the lead up to Christmas.

"I'm still very confident we are very close to getting a fair and reasonable deal," Ms Neville said.

This week, Premier Andrews urged the police union to resume negotiations.

"People are entitled to take industrial action, but when you take the emotion out of it [and] take the politics out of it, sitting down and talking is how we get the best outcome," Mr Andrews said.

Mr Andrews indicated a compromise could be reached if police were willing to include productivity gains in the new enterprise bargaining agreement.

He said the government needed to strike a balance between recognising the hard work of police while also  controlling wage growth in the public sector.

On Wednesday, some regional V/Line trains ground to a halt as the public transport union ramps up pressure on the government to resolve another bitter pay dispute with a series of day-long strikes.


Police industrial action

  • Police will station themselves near fixed and mobile speed cameras and flash their lights to warn drivers to slow down.
  • Police will stop preparing statistics, monthly reports and advice to government departments and officials (except in emergencies).
  • Police will plaster their cars and stations with slogans about their fight for better pay.
  • Police will not work unpaid overtime.
  • Police will help children cross the road in school zones.