Police pickets protest at pension reform plan

A packed Barkers Pools for the TUC day of action over pensions
A packed Barkers Pools for the TUC day of action over pensions
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POLICE emergency call handlers, fingerprint officers, scenes of crime workers and custody staff walked out of police stations across South Yorkshire.

Armed with banners and placards calling on the Government to re-think the plan to make public sector workers pay more into their pension pots for less, police civilian workers joined forces across South Yorkshire to ‘make a stand’.

But police staff stressed they did not want their industrial action to cost lives and if there had been any critical incidents they would have gone back to work.

Police officers, who are prevented from striking by law, had their rest days cancelled so they could cover some of the roles carried out by civilians.

Some were trained to answer 999 calls and to dispatch officers to emergencies and others were drafted in to provide emergency cover in custody suites.

Glyn Boyington, representing South Yorkshire Police’s Unison members, spent the day travelling to picket lines across the county.

“Police staff found it a difficult decision to take strike action but they felt there was no alternative,” he added.

“The proposed pension reforms was the last straw for members.

“We are already seeing huge cuts in the police service and have 300 fewer police staff this year than there were last year - so there are less of us doing all the jobs that have always been doing for the same money and the prospect of having to pay more into our pensions.”

Dave Ward, a Unison representative based at Ecclesfield, said: “South Yorkshire Police has been extremely supportive - officers know in the future their pensions could be affected.

“They took on a lot of our work and extra staff were drafted in for the day but if there had been a critical incident we would have gone back to work - we are not here to put lives at risk.”

Matt Skilbeck, a scenes of crime officer, said: “People were very anxious about taking strike action. Because of the job we do - helping people - there was a lot of soul searching but we feel so strongly we felt it was necessary.”

South Yorkshire Police Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Bob Sanderson, who has led the policing of today’s industrial action, said: “Once again people within the county have shown that they can make their voices heard in a peaceful manner.

“We are more than happy that the protests and rallies have proceeded with minimal disruption to the general public and with minimal use of police resources.

“In order to continue to provide the level of service the public expect from us throughout today, the force invoked prepared contingency plans that involved supplementing the communications staff who chose not to strike with trained police officers, who have the skills to fulfil the call handling role. Normal service levels have been, and continue to be, maintained without any noticeable disruption to members of the public.

“Today has been a challenge for all in the public sector, but so far we have seen normal levels of service for SYP.”