6 July 2022
Taking serious note of the recent surge in Covid-19 infections across the country, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has termed the current period the 'summer of discontent.'
A week after 40,000 railway employees abstained from work over the Government’s apathy at addressing their concerns about pay and conditions, and other public sector staff associations calling out the Government’s failings over similar issues, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has pointed in the direction of yet another wave of Covid-19 infections. According to the ONS data released last week, for the week ending 24 June, one in 30 people in England and Wales have the virus.
Drawing similarities with the conditions that characterised the Winter of Discontent, which saw widespread industrial action by public sector workers between November 1978 and February 1979 demanding pay rises over rising inflation, PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “Our members are presently going through a Summer of Discontent. The cost of living is going through the roof, police officers’ pay and work conditions are abysmal and we are staring at another surge in Covid-19 infections, which will have a cascading effect on our work commitments.
“It is a worrisome period. Police officers have endured a blanket pay freeze for two years and a 20 per cent real terms pay cut set against inflation since 2010. They continue to perform their duties to serve and protect the public, but they are not immune to financial pressures. Asking officers to risk their lives but at the same time, feed their families from foodbanks is simply not on.
“A recent poll of 57,451 officers found that 50 per cent of respondents had considered leaving the force in the next 12 months and almost 18 per cent said they are already actively looking to leave. This level of discontent is simply not sustainable. The police and the public want the Government to succeed in delivering their key manifesto commitment of 20,000 new officers, but it is doomed to fail at the level of current salaries.”
PFEW National Deputy Chair Tiffany Lynch said police officers have not had the full support of the Government for far too long. “We have all heard the warm words, but they have never been backed by firm action. Inflation is hitting a 40-year high and with pay freezes, and below-inflation rate wage rises, our members are fighting on several fronts, including rising Covid-19 infections,” she said.
“It is ironic that our police service is respected across the world and yet our own Government seems to place so little value on it. Ministers repeatedly tell us that we are supported and that they have our backs. But words are cheap when officers see and receive nothing from them whilst they hold the line in this current crisis.
“All we want is fair pay. Pay that reflects the unique, dangerous, and challenging role we play in society and the risks we face. Let us not forget that police officers all too often pay the ultimate price when serving their communities.
“We have to learn to live with Covid-19. Because of the nature of our work, we cannot close the doors on our duties. Chief constables must be held to account for the wellbeing of their force. They must rise to the situation and be more sensitive towards our members.” she added.
PFEW is closely monitoring the evolving situation of Covid-19 infections, driven by the two sub-variants of Omicron – BA.4 and BA.5, in the country and will continue to issue regular guidance for its members while continuing to lobby the Government to urgently address issues of pay and conditions.