The campaign hit our shores as we read of the settlements of the teachers’ pay dispute and the finalising of the nurses’ pay equity settlement. Significant gains have been delivered for nurses who, ironically, for equity purposes, link their roles to those of detectives in NZ Police.
As of writing, there was still no final pay offer from Police for your consideration. When it arrives, I’m sure you will all have your say and tell us whether it hits the mark.
What is obvious following Queensland’s pitch, the pay equity for nurses and, to a lesser degree, the teachers’ settlement, is the need for reform of our remuneration structure.
The first stand-out issue is the number of steps we have in our bands compared with nurses, teachers and Australian police. Nurses and teachers maximise their earnings after seven to nine years; a constable must wait 21 years. With nurses having equity they can earn considerably more over the course of their career.
It was never meant to be like this when the steps were introduced in 2003.
The intention was that the 21-step bands were temporary to assist in a transition from performance pay to step-based pay and would be reduced in subsequent negotiations. However, this never occurred and has resulted in a system that fails to reward officers appropriately across their careers. No surprise, those most affected are exactly the officers being targeted by Queensland.
The second issue is paid overtime.
Our friends across the ditch struggle enough with the idea we are not generally armed. Tell them we don’t get paid overtime and they fall off their chairs.
Ask nurses about the degree to which overtime – paid at time-and-a-half or double-time – contributes to their family income and you will find that, for most, it is significant.
The association believes the status quo for police is no longer tenable, and officers need to be paid for the many hours of overtime required of them.
Increasingly, members’ lives are disrupted by the inability of Police to meet their demand pressures. Being told to take time off, irrespective of whether that is convenient for a member’s family, just doesn’t cut it anymore. The reality is overtime is being used as “cheap” policing when everyone knows the fair and proper course is more police.
Both these issues are key to fixing an outdated remuneration structure and will require buy-in from government. If politicians lack the courage to address this matter, we all risk wasting the magnificent recruitment success of the past six years in which 37% of current constabulary staff signed up. These new members are the very ones who, under the unfair and outdated bands system, will take 21 years to maximise their earnings.
As Queensland has shown, there are alternatives. Putting our heads in the not-so-warm sand on this side of the Tasman could result in losing too many of our future policing leaders.