19 February 2024

Police union takes first step towards protected industrial action as part of pay dispute

| Claire Fenwicke
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AFP officers have the lowest base pay rate of police in the country. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Negotiations between the Australian Federal Police union and the Commonwealth could go to the next level with the union lodging an application to the Fair Work Commission for a protected action ballot.

If the application is granted Canberrans could see an impact on the ground from ACT Policing members.

The application for a protected action ballot is required before any industrial action can occur.

Negotiations have been ongoing over issues with the base rate of pay and conditions.

Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) president Alex Caruana said this was the “only way” forward due to “restrictiveness” of the Commonwealth’s Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2023 and the non-APS bargaining parameters that were part of the policy.

“As the bargaining framework sits today, we … would be lumped with an enterprise agreement unfit for an operational law enforcement agency,” he said.

“The recent survey showed that over 90 per cent of the 1800 participants would reject the proposed three-year, 11.2 per cent (with no additional allowances) pay rise offered by the government.”

About 75 per cent of respondents to the AFPA’s survey endorsed industrial action to advocate for a better pay offer.

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Wages have been a significant issue for workers, with one source telling Region officers were “struggling”.

Mr Caruana said AFP members were the lowest-base paid police officers in the country.

“These are the same police and protective service officers protecting politicians, guarding critical infrastructure such as Parliament House and Pine Gap, and protecting Australian children from the dangers of child exploitation,” he said.

“They are also the same officers and staff members keeping the ACT community safe and the same officers who have restrained over $1.1 billion in criminal assets in the past four years. They seized more than 26.8 tons of illicit drugs and precursors in the 2022-2023 financial year while saving the Australian public from roughly $10.7 billion in harm.

“Yet we are stuck with a bargaining policy that won’t allow the AFPA to bargain with the AFP to provide pay rises that are competitive with private enterprise and other law enforcement agencies.”

It’s not expected officers will walk off the job, but rather there would be a visual campaign to garner community support.

This could include painting messages on vehicles, similar to what has occurred with paramedics and their ambulances.

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The AFP began negotiations with employee bargaining representatives on 26 September 2023.

“The AFP continues to work closely and constructively with the AFPA and other employee bargaining representatives and progress through the consideration of more than 500 claims tabled to date,” a spokesperson said.

“The AFP’s intent remains to put forward an employment agreement that is streamlined, agile and innovative, competitive and financially sustainable.”

The spokesperson added the organisation intended to work “constructively” with the AFPA on the options it was considering, including through the Fair Work Commission.

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