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Police Association president Chris Cahill addressed media on March 12 outlining why members resoundingly rejected the Government’s “kick in the guts” pay offer. PHOTO: NZPA

At the time of going to print, Police had presented the association with a revised pay offer, having obtained further funding from Government. Police said this was the best offer it would provide due to the Government’s serious financial pressures.

The offer did not address all the association’s claims, but it did move on key concerns to include a $1500 lump sum (taxable) payment as compensation for the November 1, 2023, commencement date.

The second general wage increase (GWI) offered was for July 1, 2024, instead of the previous proposal of September 1, 2024, and there was provision for paid overtime at XT1.5 to be introduced from July 1, 2025.

With no possibility of negotiating further enhancements, the association put the offer to the members to vote on. If it is rejected, the issue will go to final offer arbitration.

Full details of the offer were sent to members in March. Key points were:

  • $5000 GWI from November 1, 2023
  • 4% GWI from July 1, 2024
  • 4% GWI from July 1, 2025
  • $1500 lump sum (taxable) payable upon settlement
  • Paid overtime at XT1.5 from July 1, 2025
  • All allowances to increase by 5.25% from November 1, 2023, 4% from July 1, 2024, 4% from July 1, 2025
  • Reduction in accrued leave totals allowed from 45 days to 40 days. No further clawbacks.
  • Supervisors’ allowance for all supervisors in Bands I and J with three or more direct reports.

There was an unprecedented response from Police Association members to the troubled pay round negotiations this year.

For the first time, many police officers felt compelled to share their views on a pay and conditions offer they likened to a “kick in the guts”.

They responded in droves. More than 1350 emails, the most ever received on one subject, were sent to the association last month.

The catalyst for this backlash from a usually circumspect and moderate group of employees was a poorly constructed and “insulting” remuneration offer from Police.

It came late, after delays in the process, and it came on the back of tough talk from the Government about how it intends to ramp up law and order responses in New Zealand.

As association president Chris Cahill pointed out to media last month, its members had “waited patiently for months” while other first responders, nurses and teachers received salary increases, “only to get an offer that is effectively lower than the Public Service Pay Adjustment they rejected last September”.

At that time, the previous government had offered a $4000 increase backdated to April 2023, followed by a 4 per cent pay rise from April 2024. Then last month, the present Government offered $5000, but only backdated to November, followed by a 4 per cent pay rise in July 2025. Neither offer was acceptable.

Meanwhile, the dam-burst of frustration revealed just how tough life has become for some Police staff.

Several of those who contacted the association said they were struggling to pay mortgages and were having to raid their superannuation savings.

The outcome of these negotiations could have huge ramifications for individuals and the service in general.

Long-serving officers said they were shocked at examples of hardship, such as staff accessing food bank services, the low level of morale among colleagues and a rise in those considering leaving the service.

Shared stories include having to borrow money from family to pay for rent, groceries and WOFs.

“Not many of us joined Police for the money. We knew it wasn’t ever going to be great. But when you get so many of us who join because we care, because we want to make a difference, to serve, then we need a government and an executive who are protecting us, advocating for us, and ensuring we are treated fairly and with respect.”

“It’s time for us to take a stand otherwise the public can expect a depressed and ineffective police force.”

Not backdating the offer was considered “completely unacceptable and ruthless”.

“It is the date of our collective agreement renewal and is no fault of Police staff. The delay is solely the responsibility of the Police executive.”

Police staff overwhelmingly feel that their ongoing “goodwill and dedication” and their “strength and professionalism” are being taken for granted. “There is a massive feeling of being undervalued and taken advantage of across members.”

The commissioner was also in the firing line: “It may be a poignant time to remind the commissioner of his weekly blogs that repeat, week after week, how much they value staff.

I can tell you staff are not even looking at the blogs any more out of sheer frustration. And would rather
they cease.”

As members have pointed out, they didn’t join Police to get rich, but they do expect to be able to pay their bills – rent, mortgages, childcare, petrol, school uniforms – and perhaps even pay for their “children’s birthday parties”, as one email lamented.

“Once there was a time that being an officer was a noble occupation that provided a reasonable or comfortable income. However, that was some time ago.”

One member said the marketing spin from Police – seeking a diverse range of people to trade up to “better work stories” – now has a hollow ring.

“It’s a fact that a lot of recruits are taking a pay cut to join and that it only takes a few months of financial pressure to realise the mistake they have made.”


On top of that, the work – from violent domestics, serious car crashes to unsociable hours and daunting paperwork – can be overwhelming. And now, “the so-called new tough stance on crime/gangs … they need to pay us appropriately, show ‘genuine’ support and respect members”.

A dog handler had this to say: “I’m tired of the ‘back in my day, we just got on with it’ attitude. The climate has changed substantially with what we deal with now and there is a blatant disregard for us from the PRNs we deal with. My team is dealing with more firearms offending and the drugs are creating extremely dangerous people.”

“And we get offered half the inflation rate,” said another officer.

The “taking the piss” pay offer comes as Australian state police forces continue to actively seek to attract New Zealand police officers with better pay and conditions and resettlement bonuses.

In Queensland, the starting wage for a first-year constable is A$98,000 (NZD$105,543) compared with about NZ$67,000 for a graduate police officer in New Zealand.

Police is already facing a staff crisis “with low recruitment, freeze on position movement, and an ageing workforce”.

“At this rate there will be no Police constabulary left. Why would anybody currently want to join Police?”

It hasn’t happened yet, but some members are predicting a “shit storm” and the “largest exodus in Police history”. The tone of dozens of members’ emails was that leaving was definitely looking like the only option in response to the pay offer.

This is at a time when police forces around the world are struggling with recruitment. In New Zealand, the Police executive is trying to get creative about reducing workloads by cutting back on P1 responses to family harm and mental health callouts.

“The minister himself is on record that Police are overworked, understaffed, doing the work of other agencies and are having trouble with recruitment and retention. This offer from Police does nothing to address these issues.”

It has also left members pondering, in the light of the fact that they are not able to strike or work to rule, just what sort of collective action they could take – leave phones at work, don’t wear uniforms, march on Parliament, come down with a bad case of the “blue flu”.

Some feel that the Government believes it can take a particular attitude to police pay negotiations because of the long-agreed stance on industrial action.

One email summed up the general tone. “My feedback is not printable. I am disgusted at this offer. In 39 years of policing, I have never been so outraged.”

If outrage was an effective negotiating tool, a better offer might have been made earlier.


Final offer arbitration

If the association and Police exhaust any possibility of agreement on a pay deal, they have the option of final offer arbitration (FOA) – a “winner takes all” process, unlike other forms of arbitration in which aspects of each side’s case can formulate the eventual settlement.

  • FOA is outlined under the Policing Act 2008:
  • The association and Police agree on the arbitrator
  • Each side to the dispute makes their case
  • Before a decision is made, parties can restate their case in writing – their final offer
  • The arbitrator considers issues of
    » Recruitment and retention
    » Fairness and equity
    » Changes in content of jobs, skills, duties, responsibilities, productivity
    » Relativities withing the agreement and between it and other agreements.

FOA also recognises special conditions applicable to employment in Police, including the prohibition on strikes.

One of the downsides of FOA, says the association’s National Advocate Greg Fleming, is that both sides need to enter the process by taking a position that they believe they can win with.

From the point of view of association members, he says, it might look like a watered-down position, “because it might be less than what the members believe they are genuinely entitled to”.

“However, if the association goes in to bat for members with a claim at the higher end, the arbitrator could take the view that it is asking for too much.”

How claims are pitched on both sides is part of the nuances of general negotiations, which take place with an awareness of FOA lurking in the background.

As Greg points out, it can be hard to win if you go in with big items, such as changing step bands, which are not readily resolved by the negotiation process.

It’s a balancing act between not wanting to give the appearance of selling out as you present your best shot at winning your case.

It’s possible that regular (ie, not final offer) arbitration could be agreed to, but it’s not an option that has been used in recent times in police pay rounds.

No right to industrial action

Members and media have raised the possibility of police officers striking or taking other forms of industrial action in response to the pay round.

However, New Zealand constabulary are prevented by law from going on strike.

Section 69 of the Policing Act 2008 states: “A strike, or lockout, of any number of constables is unlawful.” If a strike occurs or is threatened, the Police commissioner may apply to the Employment Court for an injunction to prevent the strike or order officers back to work.

The meaning of “strike” is set out in Section 81 of the Employment Relations Act 2000, and while it applies to wholly or partially discontinuing normal performance, it also includes reducing normal output or normal rate of work: in other words, it forbids a “work to rule” or “go slow” approach, which has been suggested by members.

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