‘Extremely angry’ police helpdesk staff could strike due to plans to cut hours

Union organisers in West Yorkshire have warned police officers may soon have to man help desks instead of being on the street keeping the public safe.

That’s if new employment conditions are pushed through by West Yorkshire Police.

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A senior officer at Unison, which represents police helpdesk staff, says a review by the force is suggesting getting rid of “unsociable hours shifts”, which could leave “more than 50” employees £4,648 a year worse off.

Natalie Ratcliffe, of UNISON, says staff cannot afford to have a £4,600 cut to their salaries.

The union is now issuing an indicative ballot for members, in order to find out whether staff would want to strike against the proposals in future.

West Yorkshire Police has since issued a statement insisting it was still consulting with staff on the proposals.

Until now, staff have received an allowance on top of their basic salary for working evenings or weekends. A planned restructuring of the help desk rota pattern will do away with this allowance, and organisers say this loss in earnings could have a major impact on employees, and that staff could end up working beyond their normal shift but only get paid overtime.

The union says staff cannot afford such a huge cut in their income at a time of soaring living costs.

Organiser Natalie Ratcliffe said: "We understand savings have to be made, and these are Government-imposed.

"But we want to work in partnership with them to look at other ways to make savings.

"What could end up happening here is that you’ll have police officers on the help desk, so they won’t be out on the streets policing.

“That’s something we don’t want either.

"There are police buildings that are just left empty. They could sell them and make some revenue off that.

"If I lost £5,000 in a year, it would have a huge impact on me and my family, as I’m sure it will on these people.”

She added that the ballot was “indicative”, to gauge the strength of feeling among members.

“We have had members’ meetings and our members are extremely angry,” Natalie added. “They were saying they’d be prepared to take some action.

"Balloting for strike action is a last resort, and [WYP should] come back to the table – the last thing we want is people from WYP to be on strike. It’s a last resort, but people can’t afford these kinds of pay cuts.”

Help desk workers help the public by dealing with road traffic collisions, bail and custody issues, and the public reporting of crimes, says the union.

Unison has claimed the police force needs to find £18m in savings.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: "The force has been reviewing the public help desk provision across its five policing districts.

“The Chief Officer Team has agreed to move forward with an option paper and this has now moved into a period of structured consultation.

“We are currently carrying out focused consultation with affected staff.

“There will be a public consultation on the proposed changes and further details will be provided in due course."