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Police union recommends pay offer

The Police Association is recommending members accept the latest pay offer, despite there being nothing to deal with living cost pressures in Auckland.

While Police Minister Stuart Nash said he believed it was a good offer, the union said despite being disappointed about the offer not addressing Auckland living cost pressures, it accepted this was the best offer it could expect at this time.

Last month, police officers rejected their first pay offer in this round of collective negotiations, saying the proposal did not reflect the increasing risks and pressures of the job.

At the time, Police Association president Chris Cahill said the offer from New Zealand Police of a 2 percent annual pay rise each year for three years was immediately rejected by the union’s negotiating team. The team did not even bother putting it to a member vote.

An unprecedented response to a subsequent email to members backed up the negotiating team’s decision.

In a rare move, the association contacted media to create publicity about the offer.

Unlike teachers and nurses, sworn police officers were not legally able to strike. This meant negotiations usually played out in private and if the union and police reached an impasse, they were referred to arbitration.

At the time, Cahill said members had sent NZ Police “a pretty strong message”.

“The job is getting harder and there needs to be some realistic recognition of that, and we don’t believe we’re being unrealistic.”

However, Cahill has since changed his stance, saying the second offer from Government was the best officers could hope for at the moment.

Police national secretary and industrial advocate Greg Fleming at the Police Association's conference today. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

The offer includes a 3 percent rise each year for three years and is worth about $350 million.

“The association has recommended the pay offer because it delivers real gains in remuneration and incentives, and in the current environment, it is the best that can be achieved,” Cahill said in his opening remarks to delegates at the Police Association annual conference on Wednesday.

“We do not believe further negotiations or final offer arbitration will deliver a better outcome for our members but ultimately, that is for them to decide.”

The offer is currently with members for a vote.

" ... there is a serious risk of losing the ability to provide core Government services to the greater Auckland area, and policing is most definitely one of those core services.”

However, Cahill went onto say it had become clear the Government could not “bury its head in the sand over the serious economic pressures facing Aucklanders”.

The rising living costs in Auckland needed to be addressed, he said.

“If that does not happen, there is a serious risk of losing the ability to provide core Government services to the greater Auckland area, and policing is most definitely one of those core services.”

Cahill said it was disappointing the offer did not address the cost of living in Auckland.

However, a working group would be formed out of the negotiations to make suggestions about ways to address those cost pressures police were facing.

Despite that disappointment, realistically the Association believed this was the best offer it was going to get at the moment.

“We don’t believe there is a better offer out there… and we think it’s appropriate at this time to recommend it to our members….

“I think we have to be realistic and understand the pressures of cost of living in Auckland aren’t just police, they are right across communities, and I don’t think we’re going to solve those in a police pay round. I think we have to be realistic in what we can achieve, but also look at long-term solutions going forward,” Cahill said.

Police Minister Stuart Nash gave a similar response, saying he believed it was a good offer, and that the cost of living in Auckland was not just an issue for police.

The Government was trying to address living and housing costs through a range of policies, including KiwiBuild, and dealing with infrastructure issues, he said.

The police collective agreement negotiations come as teachers continue to work for increases in pay and improved teacher-student ratios.

Primary teachers and principals overwhelmingly rejected a second pay offer at the end of last month, and were currently deciding on the next steps. The offer came after teachers rejected the initial offer and participated in a full-day strike in August.

Meanwhile, secondary teachers have also rejected an initial pay offer.

The rounds of heated negotiations come after nurses went on strike earlier in the year, before accepting the fifth pay offer from DHBs in August, worth about $520m.

The police association was aware its negotiations were not taking place in a vacuum. And through all the collective negotiations the Government has maintained the line that it understood workers’ frustrations, but it can only do some much in one Budget.

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