Police Scotland staff to vote on strike action

POLICE Scotland staff are to be balloted for strike action.

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Trade union Unison today said it would urge members to vote to withdraw their labour after a "break down in trust" with employers.

The move comes as the national force's oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), prepares to publish plans on how to handle planned cuts in funding.

However, union leaders said the strike ballot had been prompted by three issues: control room closures; the restrictions on annual leave during the Commonwealth Games; and cuts to the terms of voluntary redundancy deals.

The SPA has approved plans to close half of Scotland's contact and control rooms up and down the country. The first to go, in Dumfries, is scheduled to shut at the end of this month with the loss of 34 jobs. Around another 300 posts are deemed to be at risk at centres as far apart as Glasgow and Aberdeen.

The Herald understands that efforts are under way to find alternative posts for Dumfries control room staff within the local council after workers rejected moves to the central belt.

Hundreds of Unison members are understood to have asked to leave the force under voluntary redundancy or early retirement packages. However the terms of these deals are being cut on April 1.

Unison is also angry that the annual leave of 1700 police staff is being restricted during the Commonwealth Games period this summer.

George McIrvine, secretary of Unison police staff Scotland branch said: "Our members across Scotland are telling us loud and clear that enough is enough. Staff are stressed, over worked and under pressure.

"We will ballot them to gauge their strength of feeling on potential strike action. The employer have given us no choice.

"They are not providing the unions with answers to reasonable questions which we have consistently raised for many months now."

Unions claim they have been trying to negotiate with both the national force and its ruling board for a year.

Gerry Crawley, Unison regional officer said: "Police staff are a hard working, loyal, and experienced. They take pride in keeping communities safe. But this whole episode has made them worried, frightened and angry. The uncertainty of what's next is demoralising.

"The SPA and Police Scotland need to realise that Unison members are not prepared to take the brunt of these brutal cuts any longer

"Scottish Police Authority and the Police Scotland are simply not listening to us. Over 300 jobs are at risk in contact command and control centres.

"Over 1700 staff are having their lead restricted this has left unions no choice but to consult our members on potential strike action."

A Scottish Police Authority spokesman said:  “The SPA is disappointed to hear that the unions have decided to hold a consultative ballot of their members following yesterday’s Joint Negotiating Consultative Committee (JNCC) meeting.  We hope that opportunities for further dialogue can be constructed which will allow union concerns to be addressed without the need for escalation.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Staff play a vital role in the success of our police service, working hard to protect communities and contribute towards the almost 40 year low in crime. Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority are responsible for managing the impact of change on staff and they take this role very seriously. We hope dialogue with the unions and staff can continue to discuss issues of concern without the need to ballot members on possible industrial action.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said: “This unprecedented breakdown in relations is a stark reminder of the corrosive impact centralising police reforms have had on the morale of police staff.

“The SNP’s rushed reforms and unrealistic savings targets mean the majority of police control rooms will close. Scores of police counters have closed their doors to the public and police staff are being handed compulsory redundancies in all but name.

“As Police Scotland moves towards an enforcement-led mode of policy civilian staff are feeling increasingly undervalued.

“The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland have clearly failed to recognise the depth of anger and frustration amongst staff. They must do all they can to rectify that now.”

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