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Fed fires 'warning shot' with work to rule threat over pay

Working to rule and overtime bans could be used by frontline officers if the government ignores pay advice, the Police Federation has warned.

The Home Secretary was warned at the Police Federation’s annual conference that officers who had been dealt an 18% pay cut over the last decade have had enough.

Federation Chair John Apter opened the event by making clear members were no longer prepared to accept erosions in their pay and still be expected to tolerate long hours plus issues like the rise in assaults.

He made his comments directly to the Home Secretary in a joint speech to open the event. But further concerns were raised by members later over a raft of reforms linked to performance.

The row has been brewing since the pay freeze announced by the Chancellor in the spending review that ignored the recommendation by policing’s pay review board.

It’s not the first time the recommendation has been binned; a decision to reject the advice was taken to judicial review by the Fed where it was overturned.

Mr Apter said: “We need a pay review body we can have faith in. And we need a binding agreement from the government that it will accept the recommendations. This really does stick in the throat. How can this be right Home Secretary. How can this be fair?”

He added that if not: “It might be time for some other changes.”

Police Oracle was briefed: “This is a warning shot.”

As well as a fresh judicial review, options could include working to shift hours and taking leave entitlement and rest days.

“Given that officers have restrictions on their private and professional lives, then without fair pay and a pay review process that is binding on government, officers should be able to consider options available to them,” the Fed told Police Oracle.

The full impact of the pay freeze and austerity era was revealed later during a debate on pay and conditions.

John Partington, Deputy National Secretary, said: We’ve got officers going to foodbanks, taking out payday loans, going to family or friends. Morale is decreasing all the time.”

But Alex Duncan, National Secretary also warned there was a line the Fed should not cross: “We’ve got to be really careful. There isn’t much evidence that industrial action works these days.

“With the right to strike comes with the right to be made redundant. I don’t think that’s attractive. The bigger win is meaningful negotiation.”

The full extent of frontline anger over pay and pensions was not limited to the wage freeze.

There also came a warning that there were urgent problems linked to the botched pension reforms. One officer revealed they are currently unable to get a pension forecast from their scheme administrator.

Alex Duncan said: “There are officers out there who don’t know when they can retire. It’s probably about half of serving police officers who will be impacted one way or the other.”

John Partington told the online session: “We’ve got members who we know have gone out on the wrong pension”.

Just as worrying, they revealed that new recruits from the Uplift programme are not joining the current scheme because they know it isn’t as good and have heard about the botched reforms.

Mr Partington advised them not to miss out: “Although it’s not the original 1987 scheme, it’s still significant. That means employers are not paying in as well.”

But they also revealed that the government has been so badly burned by the exercise that there are no further plans to reform pensions.

They also told the event that a further judicial review could be used if scheme members are discriminated against in the settlement.

The conference was also told that bonus reforms proposed by the Home Office are on course to create another row over discrimination.

Variable payments - bonuses of up to £5,000 – could be implemented differently across forces without taking into account the nature of specialist roles.

Alex Duncan warned: “Personally, I can see this going to detectives. What I’m concerned about is that we haven’t seen a meaningful equality assessment."

He added: “We’ve seen this before. It’s dressed up as a new thing but it looks remarkably like special priority payments…which went to traditionally male-dominated areas of policing.”

He explained why there could be discrimination: “By nature of these payments it becomes who is the most deserving. There are some female officers who deal with some quite horrendous things. We are absolutely alive to this.”

John Partington said the crux issue was the Home Office’s obsession with measuring pay with outcomes.

“What they want to do is break the link between time served and pay,” he said.

A poll of delegates revealed there was no faith in getting an accurate performance review crucial to making the reform work.

Mr Partington said: “It’s fair to say reviews in the police service haven’t had a great history. Some forces haven’t been doing them. Police officers are unconvinced at the moment because they don’t see the value.

He added: “I think a lot of supervisors are familiar with cut and paste.”

But one reform is slowing working; a benchmarking process called the P Factor which compares officers against jobs outside policing. Restrictions or types of work that are unique – like firearms roles - are given a value (P) that can be reflected in pay.

There are still glitches to be solved: nursing is one of the roles but the headline salary is used excluding shift enhancements.

Alex Duncan said: “It’s not exactly scientific. We landed on 13% [P factor]. That’s the unique policing bit. It’s not easy, it has to be said. You’ve got to be careful you are not comparing apples with pears.”

John Partington said the reform is not needed in the private sector: “It’s an extra hoop for officers to jump through. For me it's bureaucratic; it's extra work for officers. If you were in the private sector, after one year you’d expect your pay to go up. I don’t think that’s fair on officers.”

The current pay and condition problems are impacting on the ability of forces to retain experienced officers.

Alex Duncan said: “We are starting to see people leave because they are disillusioned. There was a time where they all went off to become train drivers. I think they are now doing something else.”

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