23 Jul 2021

Police pay negotiations break down, union considers protest action

5:18 pm on 23 July 2021

Police officers are considering protest action after negotiations over a new pay agreement hit a brick wall.

Police conference in Wellington. Chris Cahill, NZ Police Association.

Police Association president Chris Cahill says members are hamstrung by the government's lack of support. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Police Association president Chris Cahill sent a letter to members this afternoon updating them on pay negotiations, which have been running since May.

He said police have cancelled the past two weeks of negotiations because they have had nothing to bring to the table.

"It seems police's hands are restricted by what the government is prepared to fund," Cahill told members.

"We would have expected greater respect and acknowledgement from the government for the role of police staff and the challenges faced over the past few years."

Cahill told RNZ the gap between the two sides was tens of millions of dollars.

With the government not budging, he said "delays can only go on for so long before we are left with little option but to take the constabulary collective to arbitration for a third-party decision".

The deal, as it stands, would give police staff a one-off cash bonus, but their wage or salary would not rise.

Cahill said that kind of deal simply was not good enough.

"Well, it's just, it's an added kick in the guts really," Cahill said.

"You've got the whole thing when the pay freeze was announced, you've then got all the issues with the firearms, the risks that people are facing, the fact there doesn't seem to be any recognition the police have worked right through Covid.

"All these things are adding up and we have a pretty frustrated police."

He said staff feel underappreciated by the government amid rising serious crime.

Cahill said 1500 police officers were assaulted last year, with at least one injured every day, and over the past two years, officers were shot at or confronted with a gun at least 44 times.

In his letter to staff, he mentioned that the stalled negotiations come as the trial for the murder of Matt Hunt, and attempted murder of David Goldfinch, is underway.

Cahill said members were fed up, and awee considering protest action.

"Industrial action, such as strikes, we can't do," Cahill said.

"That doesn't mean that we can't seek public support in similar veins to what other groups do. So, you know, we've got a number of things that we could look to do.

"But we'd much rather get around that negotiating table with a fair offer from the government that actually addresses some issues we've raised and we can say police would like to be able to do that as well.

"At the moment, we're hamstrung by the government's lack of support."

Without movement from the government in the next two weeks, Cahill said the negotiation would likely be headed to arbitration.

Police Minister Poto Williams and police said it was inappropriate to comment while collective bargaining was ongoing.

National Party police spokesperson Simeon Brown said the government needed to get back to the negotiating table with police.

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National Party police spokesperson Simeon Brown says it is concerning union members were considering protest action. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"The reality is our police are feeling a lack of respect from this government at the moment," he said.

"They're facing very difficult and challenging circumstances out there with increased gang and gun violence, and they're finding that they're not getting the respect they deserve from this government."

Brown said it was worrying that police were so discontent with pay negotiations that they would consider protest action.

"Yeah look, it's very, very concerning that that may be on the cards.

"The reality is, it's just another reason why the government needs to get back to the negotiating table and actually work with the police to get it together, to get a good outcome here.

"Our frontline officers are very hardworking, dedicated professionals. They won't want to be going down those other options. What they need is a government which is willing to negotiate through this process.

"The government managed to find money to hire 10,000 extra bureaucrats in Wellington, but has now put a pay freeze on frontline workers such as police officers, who are having a really challenging time facing more violence on our streets.

"It's a concerning time and this government needs to show them the respect they deserve."

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