Police officers reject first pay offer from Government

The AM Show 05/09/2018

Police officers have rejected their first pay offer from New Zealand Police, and the Police Association President says the Government needs to step up to entice more people into the job.

"Two percent each year for three years just undervalues the importance that police officers play in society and their worth," Chris Cahill told The AM Show.

He says officers recognised the Government's difficulty after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and put up with pay increases of just one or two percent a year for a decade.

"Now's the time to actually reward those officers for that constraint."

Mr Cahill says the Labour Government has indicated they care about law and order and have made good commitments to police, but now they need to put their money where their mouth is.

If they're saying they're unhappy... that's going to create a challenge in recruiting.

They need to put together a package addressing a "variety of things" - not just a wage increase, but compensation for overtime as well as a potential allowance for officers based in expensive centres like Auckland and Queenstown.

"They need to look at how we can get police to Auckland and retain them there. Some of that will be around money, others will be around initiatives such as better rostering, transport assistance or assistance with parking and subsidised childcare.

"Things like that will make a real difference to those struggling in Auckland."

When The AM Show host Duncan Garner said entry-level officers already make more than both beginner teachers and nurses, Mr Cahill said officers deserve more because of the job's dangerous nature.

"When a police officer comes out of college, from day one they're doing the same job as a senior officer. They're facing the same risks, and let me assure you Duncan, those risks are increasing.

"I'm aware of some officers with less than two months' service that have been shot at in recent months, and another officer had to make the ultimate call to shoot an armed offender. They're life-changing situations that these young people have to make.

"As soon as they walk out of police college they need to be rewarded for that."

Police officers take an oath that forbids them from striking, but Mr Cahill says even if they could walk off the job they wouldn't because they care too much about looking after communities.

He says the biggest recruiting tool for police is police officers themselves.

"If they're saying they're unhappy and they're not rewarded, that's going to create a challenge in recruiting," he told The AM Show.

"Nurses have been offered 15 percent over three years, we've been offered six. It's simply well short."

He wouldn't specify how much more of a wage increase officers would demand, saying it would depend on what other compensation was offered.

"But two percent doesn't cut the mustard."

Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien says the Government will be "seriously nervy" about the police pay offer rejection coming off the back of major strikes from both nurses and teachers.

"The Government will need to come up with more than this," she told The AM Show.

"The nurses declined five pay offers and every time was a PR mess that got played out really publicly. The Government can't really afford to go through all of that with police as well.

She says the Government won't be taking the rejection lightly, and may even be forced to "dig into that rainy day surplus".

O'Brien agrees with Mr Cahill that word of mouth is the major recruitment driver for police, and that low recruitment could damage the Government too.

"They've been striving for the 1800 new cops, it's a major Government policy and if police are unhappy and have trouble recruiting these guys that's just another nail in the Government in terms of pay which has been really fraught this year."

She says the increase in industrial action since Labour took over shows a different perception of this Government to the last.

"The unions are saying for 10 years they've had to put up with not a lot of anything, which is a bit of a crack at the previous National Government.

"There is an element here of organisations and industries and workers wanting to capitalise on the fact that there is a perceived union-friendly Labour Government that perhaps they can get more out of than they did the last."

Watch the full interview with Chris Cahill above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

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