THE Government’s public sector pay freeze is “taking money from the people who have sacrificed the most and been at the most risk during the pandemic”.
Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoë Wakefield was reacting to the announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak that all non-NHS public sector pay would be frozen next year.
Although those earning les than £24,000 will receive a rise of at least £250, the announcement comes on the back of years of austerity pay freezes.
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) said this puts police pay around 18% below where it should be.
Zoë Wakefield said: “Does the Chancellor realise how much of a pay cut we have had during the austerity years and how much our members have had to put up with and face during the pandemic?
“The amount of officers who have self-isolated away from their families because they’ve got vulnerable members at home that they didn’t want to risk taking the infection home to, they’ve made lots of personal sacrifices and they’ve continued to work throughout the whole pandemic. That just seems to have been completely ignored and forgotten.
“A lot of our young in service members are on a very low wage and some of them are now wondering whether or not they’re going to be able to continue as a police officer, because they were counting on their pay to gradually go up. They’re questioning whether they will be able to stay.
“We understand that the country is in this financial crisis and they need to find some money from somewhere else, but taking it from the people that have sacrificed the most and been at the most risk during the pandemic, in my opinion, isn’t the right place to target.”
She pointed to the rise in police assaults during COVID, including officers being spat at, and said: “We’ve seen a spike in assaults again during this second lockdown.”
Zoë added that police officers were aware that they had kept their jobs in a year where many others had lost theirs, but officers were now exhausted.
She pointed out that officers did an important and dangerous job and deserved to be paid fairly for it. She said: “This year was the first year that we had a fair pay rise and for us to then not face any future pay rises now for however long, it just isn’t fair.
“We will be expected to continue to go out and put ourselves at risk. You only have to look at what’s happened to the likes of Andrew Harper and Matt Ratana to see what a dangerous job it is. I don’t think we’re fairly paid for the risk that we face.
“Yes, some officers have earned overtime, but officers are exhausted. Officers don’t want to work any more overtime now because they would prefer the time at home with their families. They just want to be fairly paid to work their core hours.”