Victoria’s police force is heading for industrial strife after a 2.5 per cent wage offer was slammed as “pathetic” and an insult to the unprecedented efforts against ice, terrorism and family violence.
A mass meeting of more than 2000 police and Protective Services Officers has unanimously rejected the force’s latest pay offer, which also seeks to slash detectives’ overtime allowances and introduce greater barriers to salary progression.
And, in an escalation of the dispute, the meeting voted to take steps towards widespread industrial action – including parking police cars at speed cameras with flashing lights to warn drivers, and refusals to issue some fines – if an acceptable deal is not struck by November 30.
An application will now be made to the Fair Work Commission for the union to run a protected action ballot. A list of 17 proposed actions are aimed at affecting police management and suppressing government revenue, the union said.
Police Association secretary Ron Iddles said 2.5 per cent “won’t cut it” and was well below the wage deal reached this week for another public sector workforce, Metro Trains, which won 14 per cent over four years.
Mr Iddles said the union’s claim for 5 per cent was reasonable, and the current offer was insulting given the heavy workloads and daily dangers facing the state’s 14,500 officers. He said the Andrews government should “hang its head in shame”.
“The current government has their hands all over this,” he told the meeting. “They said there would be an improvement to public sector bargaining, a more efficient approach … I don’t think anything’s changed.”
Under the existing police agreement, a first-year sworn constable earns a gross salary of $62,039. A police officer in the job for seven years typically earns $78,424.
Central to the dispute is the union’s push to have weekend and public holiday penalty rates included in the deal, in line with other emergency services and interstate police.
“Every day, every weekend, every public holiday, you leave your loved ones and you go to protect your community,” Mr Iddles said.
“Why should you work on a public holiday, on Anzac Day, when someone in the hospitality industry is earning more [from] penalty rates?”
Victoria Police said on Thursday that management was meeting with the union on a weekly basis and was confident of reaching a deal that would deliver a “better organisation and better pay and conditions for our members”.
“If industrial action is likely, we will put in place contingency plans to ensure continued service delivery,” a police spokeswoman said.
Association president John Laird said the union was fighting for a fair agreement that understood policing had become tougher and more complex.
“You have been on the frontline, fighting the ice epidemic, dealing with the fallout – the increase of crime and violence and dealing with the unpredictable behaviour,” he said.
“We know you have been on the frontline fighting family violence, which continues to grow.
“The pressure placed on you is immense. This isn’t just about money … it’s about what’s fair.”
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