Police ready for 'lengthy' pay battle

POLICE work in Suffolk could be affected by the continuing pay dispute between officers and the government, it was claimed today.While it is illegal for police to go on strike, officers could trigger industrial action by operating under “work to rule” conditions.

POLICE work in Suffolk could be affected by the continuing pay dispute between officers and the government, it was claimed today.

While it is illegal for police to go on strike, officers could trigger industrial action by operating under “work to rule” conditions.

This could include sticking to contracted hours and refusing to take part in firearm duties or undercover operations, which are currently voluntary.

Officers could also refuse to use equipment that does not meet rigid health and safety requirements.

The escalating row has developed after Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced the police's 2.5 per cent increase would be implemented from December 1 rather than September 1 as expected, effectively making it a 1.9pc annual rise.

Today, Suffolk Police Federation chairman Jim Keeble said officers in the county are preparing for a lengthy fight on this issue.

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“We are looking to ballot the entire number of officers in the country to ask if they wish to take industrial action,” he said.

“But that's a very serious step and before that we would like to see binding arbitration.

“Some officers are saying they would like to have the right to take industrial action. That's not necessarily striking, because there are all sorts of things people could do to bring this home.”

Mr Keeble and five colleagues were at a meeting of up to 1,000 officers in Westminster on Wednesday, where a vote of no confidence in the Home Secretary was passed.

Mr Keeble said: “The government is trying to spin it by saying this will save the Home Office £30million, but the money is already with the police authority grant. Suffolk has already budgeted for the pay rise.

“We feel the arguments are paper thin.

“Police officers, in general, do not want to strike, but our feeling is it's going to be a long haul. This may take time to convince the home secretary as to the way forward.

“We are not employees, we are servants of the crown and we should be treated with respect.”

Prior to any pay rise, police constables currently start on £21,009.

A Home Office spokesman said the government was “grateful for the vital and hard work which police officers carry out every day”.

However, the spokesman added: “We also have a responsibility to ensure pay settlements are affordable and consistent with government pay policy, including the maintenance of low inflation.”

Should officers be paid more? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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