Up to 600 Hunter police are considering industrial action from next week over what they say is the NSW Government’s lack of answers about increased police numbers.
The NSW Police Association Central Hunter branch unanimously supported taking action at a meeting of about 70 officers on Thursday. The decision comes after the government proposed moving Maitland’s upper police management across to Port Stephens and Cessnock’s into Hunter Valley as part of a long awaited re-engineering process.
Under the re-engineering plan, lower-level police numbers will not decrease, but management positions across the two commands including the commander and inspectors would be forced to compete for positions.
Police Minister Troy Grant said re-engineering the force would put more police on the ground.
Association Central Hunter chairman Mitch Dubojski said police had waited for the re-engineering process in good faith, despite a desperate need for more officers for a number of years.
But Mr Dubojski said staff had been given no guarantee or time frame for when extra police would be allocated.
“There’s been a lot of anguish,” he said. “We can’t sustain our service under these conditions. We’re as many as 20 officers short in the Central Hunter.
“Our aim is not to disrupt the community, but send a message to the government that we’re fed up with not having enough police.”
The branch’s motion calls on the government and the NSW Police Commissioner to provide answers within seven days or the branch will commence industrial action.
Action may include issuing warnings instead of infringement notices for traffic offences, police saying “no” to covering large events and “no” to administrative tasks. The industrial action would be taken in a six-week block and escalated if no improvements were made.
“Our hands could be tied over the very busy Christmas period,” said Mr Dubojski, who wanted to be clear public safety would not be jeopordised, but that police needed to prove the value of having enough numbers.
“We’re not going to let mayhem unleash, but the community is at risk if we don’t have the right amount of police. We’re prepared to stand up for the community.”
If the branch does not hear back from the government before next Thursday, it will meet again to discuss what action would be taken.
Mr Dubojski said he expected the branch to receive support from Port Stephens, Hunter Valley and the Highway Patrol command.
Other commands across the state could also join in the industrial action.
Central Hunter branch also voted to seek an organisational chart on the proposed new commands before Christmas and clarification on how Central Hunter staff would be redeployed.
Mr Grant said the process of re-engineering the police force was about having frontline officers “where and when” they were needed and in the numbers required.
“It is about giving the people of NSW a police force that is flexible, nimble, well-resourced and best placed to address current and future policing needs,” he said.
“This process will provide the NSWPF with more flexibility to adapt policing techniques and resources to each community in response to its own challenges, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”