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‘Police Staff Are Frontline’ - Unison

Biggest public sector union says government is wrong to disassociate members from officers to justify cuts and privatisation

Police staff morale is at an all time low – and employees no longer feel part of the future of policing as more of them are transferred into the private sector, the Unison Police Lead has said.

In an exclusive interview with PoliceOracle.com, Ben Priestley slammed the government for branding many members “back-office staff” – and trying to justify privatisation and cuts to services.

He said members “despise” the term and accused the government of being “disingenuous” by saying cuts could be handled by “reducing back-office functions”.

The Union’s 40,000 police membership in England, Wales and Scotland, which accounts for around 55 per cent of all staff, joined their forces to serve in the public sector and are effectively on the front-line, Mr Priestley said.

He said: “They aspire to work together in the same team.

“Whether you are a file preparation clerk or an officer arresting somebody on the doorstep at 5am in the morning, that ethos has been under attack.”

A Unison survey in June showed 62 per cent of the public were against the privatisation of policing services. Mr Priestley added: “Policing Minster Nick Herbert and Home Secretary Theresa May say the public don’t care about who provides ‘back-office services’ – this survey shows the public do care.”

“The general music coming from the government is ‘we are going to protect the front-line’ – a lot of our members now feel that doesn’t apply to them.

“They don’t feel involved in the future of policing. Their morale is low and I think there is precious little comfort at this stage that anyone can offer apart from the Union saying ‘we will fight for your jobs and terms and conditions’.”

Unison predicts the service will lose up to 18,000 police staff members by the end of the Comprehensive Spending Review period, among them some 2,000 PCSOs. It has already lost around 5,000 members through force rationalisation processes.

While being opposed to police privatisation, Mr Priestley moved to allay members’ fears about their legal standing if they moved into the employment of a private company. This has already happened at Lincolnshire Police after hundreds of staff swapped to security giant G4S.

On their terms and conditions, Mr Priestley told PoliceOracle.com: “The law of the land says whatever your contractual terms are they are protected at the point of transfer.”

He said that if a private company then tried to change employees’ terms and conditions, Unison would be involved in the negotiations.

Mr Priestley also pointed out that all employees could continue to be members of the union even after they transferred over and they would continue to be represented.

He added: “We are still recognised by those private companies. There is no problem in trade union membership moving over.”

Photo: James Deller
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