Date: 29 March 2021 
 
 
As members are well aware, the replacement of the industrial agreement has been a two-year process to negotiate and was ultimately resolved by partial arbitration.
 
The Senior Commissioner handed down his decision on February 26, 2021, granting an additional two days leave for all police officers. 
 
While the long process has been frustrating, it is disappointing that some Members see the new leave and range of increases to current conditions as a “loss”.
 
No doubt the outcome of arbitration could have been better, and it has taken considerable argument to overcome the WA Police Force and Government’s view that police officers don’t deserve more leave at all.
 
When the membership rejected the Fifth and Final Offer, all of the conditions were taken off the table. Through continued negotiation all items, except for the additional leave, were agreed to be included in a new agreement, with of course, the additional leave the only issue for arbitration.
 
There was some controversy over the 65 per cent threshold for the ballot, which is a parameter that is prescribed in the WAPU Constitution and has been in place for more than 20 years.
 
A motion was debated and defeated at the 2020 Annual Conference that would have seen the 65 per cent reduced to 51 per cent. 
 
We have previously reported on the obstacles that lead to such a long delay and the attempts by the employer during drafting to dilute current conditions, reducing some of the new conditions from what had been agreed in negotiations.
 
When we say “no loss of any current conditions” is a good outcome it is just that considering attempts by the employer to reduce those current conditions.
 
The new agreement has been registered with effect from March 10, 2021 and is due to be replaced by June 30, 2021.
 
Included in the replacement agreement are the improvements that came from the fifth and final offer, these include: 
 
  • Country Deployment Allowance is expanded to all officers for relieving and operational deployment into/within Regional WA. This removes the restriction that prevented regional-based officers from accessing the allowance when reliving or deployed to other regional locations.
  • The Civilian and Pregnancy Clothing Allowance has been increased to $1,299 per year.
  • Overtime is now payable to officers who are required to return to duty on their rostered shift without a 10-hour break, or when overtime runs into their next rostered shift. In those cases, overtime rates will apply until they are released from duty.
  • Bereavement Leave has been increased to three days for each event.
  • Introduction of 10 single day sick leave absences with a certificate from a Health Practitioner, e.g. Chemist. The five single days without a certificate are still in place, with an improvement that allows up to three of those days to be taken consecutively without a certificate.
  • Five days cultural Leave for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander officers.
  • Employer Superannuation contributions on up to 12 weeks unpaid Parental Leave.
  • Access to pro-rata long service leave for officers nearing superannuation preservation age.
  • $1,000 per year pay rise back dated July 1, 2019.
The Union was fortunate to have a range of current and former serving Members across the ranks, experienced in uniform, detective, and specialist fields of policing provide evidence during the arbitration hearing.
 
Their evidence was essential to our argument that policing is corrosive to wellbeing, unique, demanding and at times traumatic, which was accepted by the Senior Commissioner who granted additional leave in acknowledgement.
 
What was weighed against our argument for more time off was the WA Police Force’s evidence that a number of officers hold significant leave balances, the Agency already has a comprehensive suite of wellbeing and support programs for police officers and importantly, the Government’s submissions about the forecast of a depressed State economy coming out of COVID-19.
 
The State Wages Policy is a millstone around the necks of all public sector workers, and still features large in the Government’s argument about controlling wages in the public sector, especially while the economy is still recovering. 
 
While much commentary and analysis indicates Western Australia is outperforming all other States and international  economies, the Senior Commissioner applied caution to the economic forecasts in coming to two days leave instead of the five we had sought, both of which carry significant financial cost to the WA Police Force.
 
In granting the two new days of leave, the Senior Commissioner has also placed his own restrictions on the leave.
 
These criteria were not part of any submissions by the Union, we argued for five days unconditional leave and the WA Police Force argued for no additional leave. 
 
Since the preliminary announcement of the new clause, we have sought formal clarification of the new arrangements from the Senior Commissioner, such as the 240-hour annual leave balance.
 
Of particular concern was the potential for officers based in the north west, who accrue 280 hours annual leave a year, being at a disadvantage.
 
The Senior Commissioner has affirmed his decision that the appropriate balance for all officers, irrespective of location, is 240 hours.
 
While the two days is disappointing for some, the arbitration decision has delivered key positives for Members when it comes to future negotiations.
 
The recognition of policing as unique and corrosive on wellbeing can now be used as solid grounds for future claims to improve conditions for police officers. 
 
Importantly, in his decision the Senior Commissioner noted concerns with the hours of duty provisions and constraints around annual leave access, such as the long range booking of annual leave and the overriding “operational requirements” barrier to accessing leave. 
 
He has made suggestions for improvements in the next industrial agreement, which include:
  • give work/life balance higher consideration in roster development;
  • place a focus on using annual leave rather than significant accumulation; and
  • quarantine a portion of annual leave for more flexible access without operational requirements being the greatest barrier.
We are now preparing the claim list for the new agreement and will commence negotiations with WA Police Force in the coming weeks.
 
 
By Paul Hunt 
Secretary WA Police Union