Pay freeze is ‘nothing short of a disgrace’ says Federation

The national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales says the announcement of a pay freeze for officers for the next year is “nothing short of a disgrace”.

Nov 25, 2020
By Tony Thompson
John Apter

John Apter  was responding to today’s Spending Review announcement during which Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he “cannot justify a significant, across-the-board” pay increase for all public sector workers due to the cost of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

More than a million nurses, doctors and others working in the NHS will get a rise but pay rises for police officers and the rest of the public sector will be “paused” – except for the 2.1 million workers earning below the median wage of £24,000, who will receive an increase of at least £250.

Mr Apter said: “ After years of austerity and a real terms pay cut of 18 per cent, today’s news will be a kick in the teeth for police officers. This year my colleagues have been on the front line in the battle against Covid-19, protecting the public and putting their own safety and the safety of their families at risk. Despite the warm words and the weekly applause for key workers, it seems to count for nothing.

“We are realists; we know that the country is facing a difficult economic future. But rewarding those who have played a vital role in the fight against the virus with a pay freeze is nothing short of a disgrace.

“A handful of officers will get the additional £250 for the lowest paid workers, but only those who are already on an appallingly low starting salary for the dangerous job they do. I appreciate the devil will be in the detail, but the headlines from today’s announcement does nothing to show appreciation to police officers and other public sector workers who have kept the wheels turning during 2020.”

His views were echoed by the heads of regional branches of the Police Federation. Brian Booth, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, said the “pause” in public sector pay rises was a “betrayal” of officers who had “stepped up to the plate in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, dealing with civil unrest and putting themselves at risk of infection trying to support a struggling health service”.

Neil Mennie, chairman of Kent Police Federation, said difficulties in the private sector should not mean that public sector workers were hit.

“Whilst we must recognise the difficulties many face in finding or securing employment that shouldn’t mean public sector pay should suffer,” he said.

“In real terms a pause will quickly become more of a rewind and paying the inevitable Covid bill should be equitable and affordable for everybody.

“It will be hard to understand how some are more ‘in it together’ than others and now we can only hope that pause means a short period of time.”

Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation, said: “Let’s not balance the books on the back of public sector workers particularly police officers.

“We should grow our way out of this crisis, (and) not be freezing the wages of police officers who’ve put their lives at risk as well as the safety of their family by policing the pandemic.”

News of the pay freeze was also condemned by the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI).

PFNI chair Mark Lindsay, said: “This will play very badly with the 6,800 officers I represent in Northern Ireland. It will come as a massive disappointment and also cause justifiable anger and frustration.

“Freezing pay for a year is, in effect, a pay cut. It will cause hardship for police families and serve to deter people from considering a career in policing. It means that for the11th year in a row police pay has either declined or remained static. It is a deplorable decision by the Government.

“Our officers are in the forefront of policing the Covid-19 pandemic and this is the way the Government rewards us. They certainly have not been immune from the economic impact of Covid, with many policing family units already having to deal with redundancy in their household.”

“It’s no wonder that we are seeing a worrying trend where experienced officers are leaving to take up alternative employment that offers better financial rewards and a lot less hassle. This pay ‘pause’ can, in no way, be justified. It seems that once again, the police are the low-hanging fruit, the easy option, as the Government tries to balance the books. One minute we hear loud praise from the Government for the work that we do, the next, it’s a draconian pay freeze. The two cannot be reconciled. It’s a case of penalising those who offer the most.

“Alongside other groups, we will articulate our views on this disgraceful decision to get it reviewed and ensure that whilst my colleagues play their part in the economic recovery, they are not subjected again to disproportionately paying for the debt of the nation.”

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