The Government’s treatment of frontline officers with respect to Covid-19 vaccinations has generated understandable anger and upset among members and proved to be a recurring concern throughout the annual meetings nationwide.
Most upsetting was the principle of the issue. It has left members asking whether the Government even understands the environment in which police operate, or does it just not value police enough?
After what I believe to be an unacceptably long delay to my questions on the priorities and principles of the vaccination rollout, the Minister of Police did respond last month. However, the response was less than enlightening, and failed to address the concerns we have held since vaccinations began.
At the time of writing, I am told the Ministry of Health has seen the error of its ways and Police will be moved up the priority list, but I have yet to see evidence of this.
As with vaccination priorities, the Government’s restrictive directions regarding the pay round process have also unsettled members. Unsurprisingly, it has left them questioning whether the Government understands the unrelenting daily pressures and dangers of policing, complicated further by the ever-present spectre of Covid-19.
The Police Association does not accept the Government-mandated pay guidelines and disputes the basis on which they have been formulated. While this has made for a difficult negotiating environment, we remain committed to fighting for a fair outcome for all members.
The situation we are dealing with has generated considerable feedback. A consistent message has been a rejection of the “rules” by which this pay round is governed. Certain key issues are clearly top of mind: members want redress of the toil rule and the slow progression through bands, and they want a fair pay increase that reflects, at the very least, the rising costs of living in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The association knows that some members are finding it tougher than others to make ends meet. Specifically, the 25 per cent of Police employees who earn under $60,000. While they are in the bracket the Government deems eligible for a pay rise, there are serious issues with their 21-step band progression, which takes years to rise through and delivers annual increases of only around $800 per step.
Perhaps, as with other areas our members work in, there is little understanding or recognition of the fact that without the Police employees who work across many disciplines and go well beyond their actual job descriptions, policing would grind to a halt.
The voice of Police employee members has been enhanced by the establishment of the new association committee of staff at Piki Ki Te Ao. Attending their first annual meeting was a highlight of the month of meetings, and it has been great to see the 15-strong team of office holders in place under chairperson Eva Finlay.
It is a big deal for the association to have an entirely new committee, and particularly poignant given the obstacles facing members in the Government-mandated restraints of pay round 2021.