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As this column was being written, we were still in the last stages of the extremely frustrating pay round negotiation process. It is an understatement to say it has let down members when the constant delays have caused them unacceptable hardship, as you will see in our cover story.

The cost-of-living crisis with rising food prices, rent and mortgage payments has put members under severe pressures, multiplying the effects of the unique stressors that are part of everyday policing.

As police officers you should be able to feed and house yourselves and your families.

This current pay round has shown that we are tied to a broken negotiation system. It is unfair, unbalanced and on this occasion has delayed the outcome.

In hindsight, opting into the Public Service Pay Adjustment may have been a mistake, but that would not have been the case had Treasury and the Public Service Commission (PSC) – the unseen hands in the negotiations – afforded Police the respect given to other public service negotiators.

This brings me to the crux of the issue: members’ inability to take industrial action.

If key government agencies and ministers do not recognise police officers’ unique position among employees in having no right to take industrial action, perhaps this right needs to be restored.

I have no doubt that had officers been able to strike or take other forms of industrial action, we’d have settled or been through final offer arbitration (FOA).

FOA is distinctive to Police and has in the past encouraged parties to reach agreement rather than risk losing big at arbitration.

However, I believe successive governments acting on Treasury and PSC advice have failed to fund Police at a level that allows it to make an offer competitive enough to lead to a settlement, resulting in the lottery that FOA can be.

The biggest detraction of FOA is the arbitrator must choose one side or the other – not a mix of the two sides’ proposals. This makes it extremely difficult to table the potentially riskier position you specifically want to argue, rather than a diluted position that has the best chance of winning.

This has resulted in the failure of successive negotiations to address the key issue facing Police remuneration – the number of steps in each band that are more than three times that of nurses and teachers. There is very little difference in the salary ranges; it just takes us three times longer to get to the top. It is the reason nurses can earn $240,000 more than an officer over a 20-year career.

The estimated cost of correcting this disparity is too big a risk to take to FOA, so it remains an anchor dragging young officers into financial hardship.

By now, you’ll know what the offer is and will be casting your vote on what you think of it, but regardless, the process by which we have landed here must change.

Faceless bureaucrats must not be empowered to control your options because you can’t strike, particularly when your only other recourse – FOA – has proven inadequate in addressing key structural faults in the remuneration system.

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