What is worse, no union or an ineffective staff association?

The UK government are tinkering with terms and conditions of public sector workers. I can only comment on conditions in the pigpen I’m afraid but I am sure comments can be applied (or at least the sentiments) across the public sector.

I am not particularly talking about pay, although we are all concerned about being able to earn enough to maintain a certain lifestyle hovering somewhere between what passes as poverty in the UK and getting by. There are so many other issues. Tom Winsor, who was appointed by the current UK Government to review pay and conditions, seems to believe that middle and upper management positions in the service should be open to all. I don’t necessarily have an issue with that, I have always maintained that coppers make lousy managers, they don’t have the skills. However, it is also true that managers make lousy coppers. If the middle and senior posts are managerial, which do not involve any input into day to day Policing then a person with no Policing knowledge would be fine. However, one such middle manager post could be to set tactic’s and policy for the Public Order Unit. Now, regardless of a person’s opinion of the efficacy, proportionality of the Police response to Public Order situations, if your house was being threatened by rioters who would you want in charge? An Officer who has spent some years being trained in such situations or a regional manager from a local retail outlet?

The Police Federation, toothless wonders that they are, have posed the question to local MP’s,

‘Would we parachute captains of industry into the army and have them lead troops into battle without them having an understanding of soldiering? So why does he think it will work in the police service?

The UK Government state they want to attract the right calibre of candidate, while reducing the starting salary by £4000 and requiring higher educational qualifications (three ‘A’ levels). The Federation argue that,

‘This will potentially be the end of a police force reflecting the community that it serves, which goes to the heart of policing in this country as not everyone will be able to reach the required standard. Along with our colleagues, we have all served with officers who have not been academically endowed but who could catch and lock up villains with consummate ease using skill and common sense but not ‘A’ levels. They were known as “thief takers” but people like this will be lost to the service if this recommendation is adopted.

I am not sure that the Police do truly represent the community they serve. I work in a town where there is a large Asian community but there are very few Asian officers. What the Fed say appears to say is that the Police must be truly representative of and reflect the composition of the society in which we function. Nonsense. There are always limits, I cannot see the Police employing a partially sighted driver nor a deaf interviewer. Do the Fed suggest that the blind and deaf are excluded from society? I am sure they do not. That this section of the community is not reflected in the Police Service has not been the death knell of ‘the heart of Policing…’ If the educational standard is set then it is probably for sound reasons, like being able to accurately record in writing (in English?) what has taken place so that the witness can be left alone to get on with their life. My written English leaves much to be desired. I have a degree in Law. Education and good written skills, a basic requirement of the job, do not necessarily go hand in glove. I become increasingly frustrated at the standard of spelling, even more than grammer, wrtiien in Police Statements by officers. Sometimes to the point where I have to re write the statement! This has also lead to a culture of, ‘Can you come to the Police Station to make your statement so I can type it, it needs to be typed for court anyway.’ Yes and PC Brain Cell can use the spell check. So is a requirement for basic educational ability outrageous?

There are many other elements to Winsor, introducing a basic fitness test, removing a competency pay from officers at the top of pay scale which will decrease pension benefits while increasing pensionable benefits for senior officers, officers to work to age 60 an increase of 5 years. Of course a person can only afford to retire at 55 if they have achieved a full 30 years in the job and therefore benefit from a full pension. I was a late starter and need to keep going to 62 in order to achieve a 20 year pension!

The Fed point out that Winsor wants to reduce pay of officers who are restricted in the work they carry out, through sickness or injury. Why anyone would be surprised at this measure is beyond me. The Police are paid more than their equivalent in the forces. At present a soldier stands more chance of being shot, blown up, maimed or killed than any Police Officer. The government have reduced payments to injured soldiers and reclaimed ‘overpaid’ salary issued to KIA troops. In fact, is it wrong to pay a person less for doing a substantially different job? I can see the argument that if an officer is injured at work risking life and limb to protect a member of the community we serve there should be no reduction after all the officer was doing his job and should not be penalised for that. But if the reduced ability is not work related …

The fitness test. A lot has been said about this in the UK media. I have watched overweight officers trying to outrun a 19 year old racing snake, it is not pretty, it is not effective. As a more mature person, OK old git, I do not look on the requirement of a fitness test with horror. The military conduct annual (at least) fitness tests. An age / time allowance is given to those of more advanced years. The only real problem I have is that the army are a physical entity. There is time factored in to the work programme for fitness training. In the Police we are stretched for resources. My shift pattern does not have time in it for training, of whatever kind. There is a Gym at the station where I work, funded by the officers themselves. In the last three years I have been able to get to the gym only infrequently. It is in a room 12′ x 12′ and contains some free weights a rowing machine, cross trainer and running machine with a couple of excercise bikes. If all equipment was being used the officers would suffocate because there is no proper ventilation or natural daylight. If I am required to pass a fitness test, time needs to be allocated by the employer to enable me to train. The Police (and therefore the government) make play of the Police family, indeed when I joined my wife and children were welcomed as individuals into the wider Police family. My shift pattern has changed. I now see my wife for one weekend in 6. She works weekdays, even if I am off I cannot treat this as a weekend as my wife works. I have three evenings a week off at the same time as my wife. I would ask, what is work life balance. I do accept that I am fortunate though. My children are grown so they don’t miss out and I have only got about 5 years to retirement.

 

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Comments
  1. The managerial aspect is an interesting one, and an old chestnut that never goes away. I think I have written about it somewhere. I guess working in the civil service I was used to the concept of senior policy people moving round departments for a career and being expected to pick up a new topic immediately. They weren’t employed for their experience in Department A or B but rather their ability to think.
    I never discovered until just before I left the NHS that giving me responsibility for cancer services had been somewhat controversial because I wasn’t a medic. Yet people in charge of mental health services weren’t psychiatrists, older peoples services weren’t managed by geriatricians etc etc. But no, cancer was sooo medical and tough that it needed a medic. More here on that one – you only need to read half way down to get to the point 🙂
    http://cloudsmovingin.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/health-issues-more-smears/
    I think fitness tests without time during work hours to work on that is ridiculous. I would have thought an hour a day could help towards that otherwise the fitness test is a meaningless farce.
    There is no work life balance is there? 😦 I realised that after I had left. Probably why I still enjoy my leisure even now. Even the proponents of less ‘facetime’ in my office ended up doing the same as the rest of us. Sadly.
    Did you mean to include a spelling error in your par about written english?? 🙂

  2. If there is demarcation between operational and other, no problem. We, like everyone else, need managers who CAN manage but with the decreasing salaries … and support staff are generally paid less than Police counterparts so how long before the finance manager is being tasked with Policing the next mosque bombing?
    I will look at your post shortly, just bottling wine!!
    See I can’t write either so if I pick up others mistakes it demonstrates the level of ineptitude!

  3. I wondered why you weren’t at the tunnel or the plot. How nice. Is it too new to sample?? You do have some quality of life I think.

  4. It is a bit, but the joy is there’s plenty more where it came from! The sad thing is I have given up alcohol, well, I’ve cut down anyway 😦

    Still have either my ginger beer or my wine at lunch on Saturday’s though.

    I have just started bottling my cider now 😉

    The One keeps saying we should lay some of the wine down, I don’t agree, the stuff I make is hedgerow wine and I’m not convinced it keeps too well. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Don’t tell anyone, I do vodka as well, but that’s a secret!

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