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Police ballot for industrial rights
GORDON BROWN is trying to enforce below-inflation pay rises on public-sector workers, from the civil service to local government workers, teachers and nurses. Now the police are being forced into considering action. The Police Federation, representing rank and file police officers, has called on the Home Secretary to resign and is at loggerheads with the Metropolitan Police over a protest demonstration on 23 January.
The police were awarded a 2.5% pay rise by an independent tribunal from 1 September. But the government decided to implement it for the 140,000 police in England and Wales only from 1 December, saving £30 million.
Since the 1970s the police have been awarded pay increases by an index, which takes into account their lack of a right to strike. This year however, as part of their drive against public-sector pay increases, the government decided they wished to come out of this and impose a settlement.
The index was given to the police after discontent in the police force in the 1970s. A series of pay disputes, no doubt influenced by working-class struggles at the time, led to calls then for genuine trade union organisation and the right to strike.
To silence their demands they were given an immediate 10% pay increase, with a review into police pay after this. When the Tory government was returned in 1979, it announced the new generous pay index, no doubt partly to buy the support of police officers for the assault on trade unions during the 1980s.
Now the Police Federation is to ballot its members on whether it should lobby for full industrial rights. The Federation is also attempting to organise a demonstration in London, although archaic legislation may be used to block this from taking place - which would leave us with the odd sight of the Metropolitan Police banning police from demonstrating.
Socialists support police officers' right to a proper trade union and the right to strike. We should work towards bringing the ranks of the police closer to the labour movement, whilst also calling for local democratic control of the police and opposing their repressive use.
In The Socialist 10 January 2008:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review