Wednesday, December 12, 2007 

What about our human rights?!

Police officers are never likely to be the public sector workers that most of the public will sympathise with, especially when compared to nurses, teachers or even the fire brigade, as the strikes a few years back showed. They're likely to show even less empathy when they learn that, far from threatening to strike over a pay raise they've been denied, they're in actual fact whining about the rise not being backdated to September, making a 2.5% rise into something more like a 1.9% one, or in real terms, meaning that the average officer will be around £150 worse off.

According to Jan Berry of the police federation:

"I don't remember such a call by the Police Federation being made previously but I also don't remember a home secretary who has betrayed the police service in the way that this home secretary has."

And if that's not enough hyperbole for you, she then added this rejoinder:

"It is alien to police officers to want to go on strike, but they feel they have been pushed into a corner where their human rights have been withdrawn from them."

Ah yes, the police, those arbiters of whom to remove human rights from are now whimpering that because they're £150 down on the deal they've been similarly violated as say, someone wrongly arrested and never apologised to.

To look at it from the other way, this is a quite clear case of government parsimony for no good reason. Backdating the rise to September would cost around £40,000,000 which is a pittance, especially when you consider that £30bn or more has just been sunk into Northern Rock. Gordon Brown's argument at today's PMQs, that doing so could cause run-away inflation would be laughable if it wasn't so ridiculous.

Both sides would be helped if they weren't hyping this up to being the end of the world as we know if they don't get £150 each or spend £40,000,000 more now. Compared to some civil servants, such as those who are next year to get no real pay rise at all, the police are both well paid and treated far better than many others on the public payroll, and very few of even the most militant unions call for the resignation of the minister responsible in such disparaging terms as the Police Federation has. Not content with considering its members above other mere mortals, demanding as it does the death penalty for officers killed in the line of duty, it seems to regard what are trifling sums of money to them but not to many others struggling to keep their heads above water, as something worth manning the barricades for. A compromise should be easy to reach, but not before the Federation has thrown its toys most firmly out of the pram.

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