If you sign away your right to strike to get bigger pay rises you sell your soul

I have a lot of sympathy for the police over their anger at the government refusing to backdate a their pay increase, as promised.

As a teacher I got only 2.5% over 18 months which equates to a 1.8% per annum increase (0.1% less than the police), whilst the government promised a pay review if inflation reached 3%, which it did, and the government again broke its promise on that too. So I know what it is like.

The problem I have though is some police officers are now saying, on the first occasion that they have not received a better pay deal than the rest of the public sector, they want the right to strike. I am a member of a union and I support people's right to strike. However, I object to people receiving good pay deals every year in return for having an agreement not to strike, then threatening to tear up this agreement. Other public sector workers have received equally derisory pay increased but there has been no clamour to strike, and nor should there be.

At the moment everyone is having to tighten their belts a bit. The economy is not flushed with cash, the government is not awash with the billions it had ten years ago whilst the housing market is precarious and their are real credit fears. In short, everyone is having to be more cautious about things. I am not fan of the government breaking its promises over pay, indeed, it is disgusting that they have broken any pay promise. But anyone going on strike at the moment over this is likely to incur the wrath of the general public, and in turn lose a lot of sympathy.

I remember well a few years ago when I worked for Norwich Union that bosses there balloted mid level managers in the company to persuade them to leave the union and join the Senior Staff Consultative Forum (SSCF), or the chocolate fireguard as it became known to more junior staff. In return for leaving the union and signing away their rights to be members of the proper trade union, they were offered inflation + pay rises, whilst the rest of us lower staff were given inflation only rises. Happy days for senior staff then ? No. The next year Norwich Union had a major cull of mid level managers, and with no union to speak on their behalf, nobody payed the slightest attention to the SSCF.

And therein lies the police problem. They signed away their right to strike in return for pay rises that were better than everyone else, but lost the ultimate power to get the best deal for themselves. Now by wanting to strike when they have been used so many times to help "break" strikes, they will be seen as hypocrites. I cannot blame individual officers, but the Police Federation itself looks very silly and selfish at the moment.


Charlie Marks said...

The police are not allowed to strike or have a trade union by law - there is no agreement on their part. Any ballot would not be on strike action, but on whether the PF should lobby parliament to pass legislation that would give them the right to strike. This probably wouldn't happen - most MPs have no interest in working people, let alone their rights - but it would signal that the police were willing to go further, and this would frighten the government.

As for being hypocritical - most police officers have never been in this position before as no government has been so foolish in failing to keep them sweet.

I not only agree that the Home Secretary should resign and support the right of police to take strike action, I believe that the Police Federation should become a trade union and be affiliated to the TUC.

Joe Otten said...

Hang on guys. Just how powerful would a police force with a right to strike be? Millions of people would be terrified of a police strike, and the police would therefore be able to demand pay far higher than would be fair or deserved.

The fact is that the no-strike situation was understood when these police signed up.

Sure, the govenments have been idiots. But striking police would only make things much much worse.

Charlie Marks said...

Having the right to strike is not the same as using it. Many unions have gone decades without holding national strike action, or even getting close to it, and I expect that there'd be little chance of a police strike.

Using your arguement, Joe, we should also deny fire fighters, doctors, nurses, ambulance staff, teachers, etc, the right to strike. Are they getting huge pay and lots of perks?

The government have been more than idiots, they have broken a promise.

Joe Otten said...

No Charlie, I wouldn't. No strike by any of those professions is a fraction as terrifying as a police strike. None of them are anywhere near as inherently monopolistic.

Doctors are paid well, mostly because they can name their price for doing whatever the latest box-ticking exercise is that the government has dreamt up, and the gov is daft enough to pay it.

The rest probably aren't, although it is impossible to judge what a fair rate of pay would be.