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"General consensus" for a ballot on industrial rights

WMP Police Federation Chair Rich Cooke has said the time for a national ballot for members on industrial rights is is "well overdue”.

A national ballot on industrial rights for policing could be incoming – as Police Oracle understands there is a “general consensus” for it among local Federation branch chairs.

West Midlands Police Fed Chair Rich Cooke has said the agreed position in the West Midlands is that such a ballot is overdue and ought to take place now.

He told Police Oracle that while there is general support of such a ballot, there remain differences of opinion over timing and how to ensure members are fully informed of nuances and possible consequences.

“Following the Casey review, what’s become clear is that it looks like we are going to suffer a diminution of our regulatory rights,” he said.

“They’re looking at circumventing regulations in terms of vetting – to remove vetting from officers and remove independent chairs.

“You can argue that if that happens, we’re no better off than an employee."

The Met's Operation Assure centres around revetting officers who have gone through misconduct proceedings but not been dismissed. If the vetting process is failed - officers can then be dismissed for gross incompetence. 

It is expected that more than 100 cases will be dealt with in this way. 

NPCC misconduct lead, CC Craig Guildford, has further backed calls for Chief Constables to have the final say on misconduct dismissals. 

Mr Cooke continued: “Secondly, because of the pay trajectory – it’s clear that the P-factor is just not there [anymore].

“I certainly believe that if this carries on in the way it is, we need to get industrial rights.”

He further explained to Police Oracle that the Strikes Bill, which plans to impose minimum service levels on certain industries during strike action, demonstrates that there is a way for critical services to strike safely.

“If you’re saying to nurses – you can’t all go on strike but legally we’ll allow some of you to go on strike – then the same thing could apply to the police,” he said.

Although it’s not a view agreed on by everyone, West Mids Pol Fed are calling for such a ballot to ideally happen before the next pay award.

Legally, of course, it’s not currently possible for officers to strike. But such a ballot would be a “clear demonstration” of the level of anger and discontent among rank and file officers.

“Any campaign for industrial rights is going to take a long time. It will probably involve a court process and that could cost a lot of money.

“However, with the general election coming in soon – if we get it on the table we could influence government or the Labour party to give us different industrial rights – such as collective bargaining like we had previously.

“At the end of the day – it draws a line in the sand to say we are really not happy and we cannot go on as we are.”

He underlines that preparation work is underway nationally, while the West Mids specifically are looking to begin campaigning on it openly. 

As to why he’s concerned over further delays?

“We need to catch the wave of the members’ discontent and capture that in a vote. They key with any ballot is the turnout.

“I’m quite sure it will be a yes vote but the criticism will come if we get a low turnout.”

The Police Federation told Police Oracle: "Following the police pay freeze in 2020, the PFEW has been actively campaigning, engaging and calling on the Government for a pay award which takes account of the unique situation and responsibilities of police officers.

"In furtherance of our efforts, we have initiated discussions with leaders of the federations of all the 43 forces in England and Wales to exploit every lawful action to safeguard members’ interests. A decision will be made by consensus in due course and informed to all stakeholders."

For Mr Cooke: “The positive [from yesterday’s Branch Chairs' meeting] was the consensus that there appears to be around what we need to do – it’s just a question of ironing out the details between 43 different forces and PFEW.”  

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