Pay freeze for public sector workers would be a 'kick in the teeth'
Representatives of police officers across the country are urging the Government to step back from imposing a pay freeze on police officers and other key public sector workers.
Following speculation that Chancellor Rishi Sunak may freeze the pay of more than five million public sector workers in his Spending Review announcement next week, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) warned the Government against such a move.
PFNI chair Mark Lindsay said: “In the midst of a pandemic, a pay freeze or pay cap would be seen as penalising key workers who are doing their level best in these most trying of circumstances.
“If these press reports are accurate, then I have to say the Government is being badly advised. Freezing pay for police officers and other public sector workers would be a kick in the teeth and a deplorable way of “rewarding” those who are in the front line of this health crisis.
“I understand public finances are in a shocking state with £215 billion in borrowings but, once again, penalising our officers and others would be a shocking and deplorable act. I appeal to the Chancellor to step back from a pay freeze which would cause untold damage to morale and inflict real hardship on officers whose commitment during this pandemic has been without question.”
He added: “Police officers are not immune from the economic effects of Covid, as in many cases household income has decreased as partners face redundancy and uncertainty due to the pandemic.
“Let’s not forget that our officers are still waiting for their 2020/21 pay increase which should have appeared in September payslips. Our devolved processes have led to yet another year where we are left high and dry waiting months on end for sign off.
“This of course follows on from ten years of austerity within policing, where PSNI officers received well below inflation pay rises several years running and to add insult to injury we are preparing pay submissions for next year without having last year’s settlement implemented.
“This is a disgraceful state of affairs and to now have the prospect of a pay freeze will cause untold pain for my hard working and committed colleagues.”
The national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said such a move would be “unforgiveable and a betrayal”.
John Apter said: “Given the personal sacrifices made by public sector workers during this pandemic and following years of public sector pay freezes, such a move would be morally bankrupt. My colleagues deserve much more.
“During the pandemic, government ministers have thanked and celebrated key workers in the public sector, even clapping on doorsteps to show their support. To freeze their pay and penalise these same workers would be complete hypocrisy.
“In real terms over the past decade, police officers have suffered an 18 per cent cut in pay – so speculation that there are more real term cuts to come will not be well received by rank and file police officers, who bravely stepped up and helped to keep the country moving.
“I am not naïve – I know the country is facing a difficult financial future. But cutting the pay of key workers is not the solution.”
He added: “I appreciate this is just speculation at this stage, but also know how these stories often come out to test public reaction. Well, let me be clear – a pay freeze is not acceptable, and would be seen as a complete betrayal by this Government.
“Next week, I want to see the Chancellor show his support and thank public sector workers by making clear the speculative reports this week were just that – speculation and not reality.”
The police and crime Commissioner for Derbyshire, Hardyal Dhindsa, is also calling on the Chancellor to think very carefully before freezing public sector pay to help address the deficit caused by the cost of the Covid pandemic.
He said: “I recognise that we all have a part to play both in the handling of this pandemic and the costs associated with it. It is, however, unacceptable to me that those very people who have been at the frontline of this country’s response could well be hit the hardest by this potential freeze in pay.
“It sends out a message that whilst the Government is happy to send you off to the frontline, with little or no clear guidance, it doesn’t really value the work you do, nor the impact you have made.
“This is a smack in the face for many of those people who have worked so hard, in very difficult circumstances, to keep the country safe.
“What is especially galling is that this comes fresh on the heels of the National Audit Office’s report earlier this week that identified a lack of transparency and rigour in the decision making and procurement of PPE. It begs the question whether a more robust approach might have left a smaller shortfall in the budget.
“I urge Mr Sunak to seriously consider both the impact and the message such a freeze could have. We are all in this together and we must support those who have worked tirelessly to support us.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for pay and conditions, Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, said: “We recognise the challenging financial position for the Government. The very significant contribution to public safety made by our officers and staff, including throughout this pandemic, their wellbeing and the affordability of pay increases are always important factors in considering our submissions to the Government on police pay.
“Throughout 2020, police leaders have highlighted the dedication, hard work and resilience of officers and staff. We await the Government’s Spending Review and will continue to work closely with the Home Office”.