11 October 2023
The Police Federation of England and Wales will be balloting the membership on pursuing industrial rights for them, as the current system is unfair and not fit of purpose.
At Annual Conference 2023, National Deputy Secretary Gemma Fox first provided background on decisions made so far, highlighting that in 2021 PFEW withdrew from the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) due to a number of concerns.
“It comes down to the degradation in police pay over a number of years now, and a desire for there to be a pay mechanism that is fair,” she said.
“We feel the PRRB is restrictive, and the pay review body is ultimately controlled by the Home Office. The ability of the remit letter being set, and the scope being set by the Home Office is a real concern for us – we feel there is too much interference to the pay review process.
“We do not have confidence in a system that is supposed to be impartial and independent, and recognising the position policing is in.”
Police pay is currently an outlier amongst other protective services workers and public sector, likely being negatively impacted due to police inability to strike or have access to any form of industrial rights, according to independent research by non-partisan think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF).
PFEW is calling for:
PFEW is now ensuring members have a voice in the matter and will be launching a ballot in the near future.
“It is important for us we scope our membership on what they feel police pay should look like in the future and on that basis our National Council has voted, and we are now going to ballot our membership on pursuing industrial rights for them,” Gemma continued.
“Focussing on a fair pay mechanism that has those principals I have outlined and give them a voice on if collective bargaining is something they wish to have back on the table.
“We are really keen as an organisation we take that mandate from membership, if given, and pursue that as a policy position for the organisation.”
England and Wales used to have a Police Negotiating Board (PNB), which is still present in Scotland, however, it was abolished between 2013-2014.
Calum Steele, Chair of EuroCop and ex-General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, championed the benefits of being in face-to-face discussions with the PNB, describing it as a powerful tool.
“While it would be disingenuous to say the system is perfect, it is head and shoulders above the situation where you have a PPRB in England and Wales,” he explained.
“The Scottish system allows you to be in the room when making decisions on pay, looking someone in the eye and telling them why you are worth X – it is a very powerful position to be in.
“I am confident the existence of PNB in Scotland, to some degree, has contributed to the maintenance of better pay and conditions for members.
“The PNB has allowed for that to take place and get around some of the more nuanced aspects regarding more than just pay, the wider elements of working terms and conditions and how that work is undertaken.”
Deputy National Chair Tiff Lynch outlined it is “not going to be a quick fix”, but reassured members that PFEW will be open and transparent throughout this process.
“We want to take members on the journey with us,” she said.
“This dates back to 1919 and it has never been a smooth process as there are legal parameters that tie all of this together, but it is fair to say our members have had enough. They feel like they have been held to ransom, being made to do more with less.
“It is a bit like the begging bowl, we were awarded a 7 per cent pay rise, and next year we have absolutely no clue what we are going to get.
“All we are wanting is fair pay and a fair seat at the table to effectively negotiate terms and conditions (…) so we can recruit police officers that want to stay because they are getting paid fairly.”
On the matter of striking, Mr Steele spoke about a two-year study from EuroCop into industrial rights for police officers and military personnel.
The situation in England and Wales is similar to that in 32 European countries, with an overwhelming majority not being able to strike. In Belgium, where they can strike and take some form of industrial action, there are still some restrictions in place due to ensuring minimum service levels.
From a legal perspective on industrial rights, Lord John Hendy KC, said: “There is quite a lot of law involved with collective bargaining. Under the European Convention of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights states the right to collective bargaining is a fundamental human right and an essential element under Article 11.
“The International Labour Organisation protects the right to collective bargaining in international law, but in national law, officers do not have the right to strike or bargain collectively.”
Unions can currently apply to an employer to be recognised for collective bargaining over pay and holidays, and if the employer refuses, the union can go to a body called the Central Arbitration Committee which can order the employer to collectively bargain on those subjects.
Although police officers do not fit in within the statutory definition of those workers eligible under that legal scheme, he explained there is a case currently before the Supreme Court involving Deliveroo drivers, whereby it is argued that national law should be interpreted more broadly to deliver on international rights.
Watch the session back below.