Thin blue line

No appreciation: Victoria Police officers have written slogans across their vehicles to highlight their plight.

ZAIDA GLIBANOVIC

‘OVERWORKED. Undervalued. Always there.’

You may have spotted those words plastered across local police stations and vehicles as thousands of Victoria Police officers take part in industrial action amid failed enterprise bargaining.

Traralgon Police Station has been adorned with union posters, with local police seen parking squad cars branded with ‘fair pay’ in prominent areas across the Latrobe Valley.

Every four years, Victoria Police, The Police Association of Victoria (TPAV) and the state government work together to ensure a fair pay agreement. The parties have been locked in talks since June this year.

The union is demanding a four per cent pay rise among better standards of working conditions.

TPAV’s secretary, Wayne Gatt said industrial action is necessary as morale was at crisis point, with workers needing a fair deal that meets their expectations.

“Overworked, undervalued, but always there.

“They’re our words to convey your feelings. We want the community, your employer and the government to hear and feel them too,” he said.

“Our representatives have been at the bargaining table with Victoria Police, attempting to negotiate an agreement that will take you forward for the next four years. An agreement that will put a full stop on the most tumultuous four years in policing history in this state.”

Close to 18,000 officers across the state began industrial action on the morning of Sunday, December 3 after TPAV voted 99 per cent in favour of industrial action.

“We genuinely hope that Victoria Police moves productively with the government to address key concerns and settle this round of wage negotiations without the need for disputation to occur.

“The best outcomes for all parties are genuinely achieved when this is possible.

The last industry agreement expired at the end of November.

A survey conducted by TPAV in September found increased levels of burnout among the members, with 20 per cent wanting to quit in the next 12 months.

Victoria Police has faced an employment crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.

It was announced last month that 23 police stations across the state would reduce their reception hours because of staffing shortages, with another 20 more stations to do the same in coming months.

According to Victoria Police’s annual report, the police force is around 800 staff short across the state

TPAV says the state government has failed to address the critical concerns of the union on behalf of the workforce in the five months of negotiation.

Some of the industrial action involved squad cars flashing their lights in front
of fixed-speed and red light cameras across Victoria to deny the state government of revenue from those fines.

There are 19 other measures that police are employing as part of the industrial action.
Police are replacing automated messages at stations with information on the action, distributing pamphlets and helping students cross the roads at schools in an attempt to get the government’s attention.

All of the actions have caveats that all measures should not affect public safety.

Shadow Minister for Police, Brad Battin, urged the Premier, Jacinta Allan, to address the years of under-resourcing, falling staff levels, plummeting morale and increasingly difficult work conditions.

“Our police are at the frontline of keeping Victorians safe every day, yet they have been let down again and again by Labor,” he said.

“Victoria Police has over 800 vacancies, 43 stations which have closed overnight and now over a quarter of officers saying they are going to leave. The government must finally take responsibility and stand up for our police,” the Shadow Police Minister Brad Battin said.

“Police Minister Anthony Carbines is again missing in action, and the Premier needs to step in and fix the crisis in our police force.”

The government, according to Ms Allan, would not step in to break the impasse between the union and Industrial Relations Victoria.

Based on when a resolution is reached, the police organisation stated that taking action might take days or weeks.

No appreciation: Victoria Police officers have written slogans across their vehicles to highlight their plight.