It is disappointing that the Government has pressed ahead with its plans to freeze public sector pay despite police officers working above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defence Police Federation Chairman Eamon Keating said he was “deeply disappointed” by the announcement to Parliament, which Chancellor Rishi Sunak described as a “pause” to most public sector pay.
However, he did tell the House of Commons that those earning less than the median wage of £24,000 would receive a pay rise of “at least” £250.
Eamon said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Government would seek to in effect make savings from police officers’ pay when police officers have worked right the way through this pandemic, sometimes at risk to their own health and the health of their families.
“They’ve had no alternative, they’ve stood up to the task as you would expect from your police officers and they’ve turned up for work every day and have done everything that’s needed of them. I think it’s disappointing that yet again we’re seen as a lesser part of that front line staff.”
Officers on the lowest tier of police pay will benefit from the small increase announced by the Chancellor, but it is still unclear how much they will receive.
Eamon added: “We’re grateful that something is going to be given to officers who receive less than £24,000 a year, but it’s disappointing that we don’t know exactly how much.
“It’s also disappointing that it’s only going to be applied to those officers when every single police officer has worked above and beyond during this pandemic.”
The Chancellor justified the “pause” in public sector pay by saying that private sector workers had been hit particularly hard during the pandemic, while public sector workers had not.
It’s a position Eamon has little sympathy with. He explained: “If the police had received inflation-equalling or above-inflation pay rises in the past then I might have some sympathy for that comment.
“But the reality is we had our pay held up for years and had below-inflation pay rises, so current police pay is about 18% below where it should be due to the real terms pay cut we took from 2011.
“To suggest that because we had one reasonable pay rise last year excuses putting a freeze on us this year, he wants to call it a pause, does not work. Does a pause mean that it will be backdated? What does that mean?
“I just find it really disappointing. It’s easy to target people who have no industrial rights and no right to recourse. What will happen to MP’s this year? Will they get a rise in pay and allowances?”
Eamon had one final message for officers who may be understandably feeling let down at the prospect of not receiving a pay rise in 2021.
He said: “We still take pride in everything you do, you do a fantastic job. I have absolute pride and confidence in the capability and the commitment of our officers and I know that they will continue to do their work regardless.
“It is disappointing that this value isn’t necessary recognised everywhere, especially in the places where it should be recognised.
“During the pandemic, it’s been the police who’ve been asked to enforce all of the different rules, it’s put us in a very negative light at times with the public, which is a very difficult position for police officers.
“It’s disappointing that Government would take that opportunity to pay our officers back by withholding a pay rise.”