Last year’s 2.5 % pay rise for the police, agreed by the iindependent arbitration panel, was unilaterally slashed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, to 1.9%, a real wage cut. This interference caused enormous resentment among the police. Since the 1918 strike, it has been illegal for the police to strike. So they are totally dependent on arbitration doing right by them. For the past 24 years the arbitration award has been nodded through. Last year Smith used her veto. Police Federation Chair Jan Berry said members felt ‘betrayed.’
The Police Federation has conducted a ballot on how to respond. Of 140,000 coppers, 60,000 returned ballot papers (43%). 93% of respondents wanted the arbitration award made binding. What if the government won’t play ball?Then 86% think the Police Federation should have full independence. They want the right to strike. They are right.
A BBC commentator said, "The vote seems to be a deliberate shot across the bows of a government which many Police Federation members have come to regard as hostile." When New Labour manages to alienate a traditionally conservative police force, an arm of the state, and makes them contemplate strike action, then that is a measure of the support they have blown.