Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
These past four weeks have been very busy and included a first for me, in 26 years' service: an opportunity to attend the National Police Memorial Day service.
This year the service was held at St Paul's Cathedral in London and the Patron of the NPMD, Prince Charles, was in attendance. I was honored to be there in company with our General Secretary, Darren Townsend, and Treasurer Graham Poyser. Not only was this my first opportunity to attend NPMD but it was my first experience visiting St Paul's Cathedral; a very fitting venue for such a special day in the Policing calendar.
Why do I mention this particular day? Well, having reflected on my role and my life I realised that things are not as bad as they sometimes seem. Everyone who attended the service paid respect to the many police officers and families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. NPMD ensures that these officers and their families are not forgotten.
One particularly inspirational moment was when 8-year-old Abigail Phillips, daughter of PC Dave Phillips who was killed last year in Liverpool, stood at the front of the Cathedral and lit a candle. She said: "In the opening of the buds and in the warmth of the summer; in the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn...we will remember them".
There weren't many dry eyes in the Cathedral as we watched this very brave young lady and it was a moment when we could all reflect on the times in our own lives we have found difficult. It was a touching service and one that will be remembered for many years.
Moving on from this memorable occasion, the public consultation in Scotland for the integration of BTP Scotland into Police Scotland has now closed and we now wait for the outcome of this process. Darren Townsend and I have been invited to deliver evidence to a Scottish Justice Parliamentary Committee on 1 November. We are also visiting the civil servants in Scotland who are working on the project and we will meet with the Transport Minister in Scotland during the first week of December. Hopefully by the end of this year we will be in possession of more information and facts that will provide some security and reassurance for our officers and staff of BTP Scotland.
We are also awaiting the outcome of the Infrastructure review paper. Some of you may have read the article in The Times newspaper about the proposals. Furthermore, I informed you all last month that a paper had now gone to Ministers to establish if there is a genuine business case for the merging of three police forces. If there is a case, then they will determine the strategy for implementation. Once we know if the project has the approval of Ministers, we will ensure all members are made aware.
In summary, there is still a significant level of uncertainty regarding what BTP as a Force will look like both in Scotland and across England and Wales in the future. Be reassured, the Federation are working closely with advisors and our colleagues in other Federations, and we are promoting all the good work and steadfast determination you all demonstrate on a daily basis in the hope that both BTP and your futures are secure.
On the subject of uncertainty, we now have sight of the Demand Review rosters and we are aware of the upheaval they are causing in some parts of the country. Clearly there are mixed messages being provided regarding the rosters and I have been alarmed by the way the Demand Team is handling the consultation process.
Due to our concerns, Darren Townsend and I visited Cardiff and sat in on one of the presentations. It is clear the Demand Team has a lot of work to do. We, the Federation, have submitted two alternative proposals for the two 24/7 rosters ensuring that after any night shifts, officers receive four rest days and that you are rostered no more than six consecutive days on any shift pattern, as per the Working Time Regulations and Police Regulations. These Proposals are still to be discussed at a formal consultation process on.
Regarding the 19-hour shift pattern there is little the Federation can challenge; this is a compliant roster as per the Regulations. However, the three-week proposal is not compliant and therefore the Federation will never agree to such a proposition.
Due to the various interpretations of the Police Regulations and the Working Time Regulations, the Federation has proposed a new Working Time Agreement between BTP and BTP Federation. This document is currently in draft form and will hopefully be disseminated to all in the very near future.
Additionally, we now have the publication and the public consultation of the CID Review. Again the Force has supplied rosters and these have been published without any formal consultation process with the Federation.
The rosters are an emotive subject and undoubtedly there are many with varying views. I want to reassure you that we are very much open to suggestions and indeed constructive criticism, but personal insults and the spreading of disaffection, albeit by a minority, on social media simply isn't helpful.
We are all working hard to protect your interests, on rosters and on many other fronts. Yes, there will be times when we make mistakes; we are a new Federation with fresh ideas and a different approach, and we won't get it right every time. However, you can be reassured that all in the Federation are working vigorously with steadfast determination for your benefit and we are listening to your views and concerns. So please, let's work together and hopefully achieve the aims of the majority.
Moving on from rosters, the Federation had a Force conference with the BTP Authority. Darren Townsend has provided an update regarding this meeting and you can read that here in full. In summary, we firstly highlighted our disapproval of the Force interpretation of the overnight allowance as per the Winsor agreement. This is a long drawn out dispute that both Darren and I wish to resolve sooner rather than later. It was reassuring that our written legal advice has been finally acknowledged by the BTP Authority and they understand our interpretation on this topic. The Authority now wishes to seek their own legal advice but have reassured us that this matter will be resolved by the end of this year.
Likewise, we also raised concerns regarding the absence of an ill health dismissal process on the current Sickness Absence Policy. This policy is now being revisited and again the Authority have agreed that there should be protection for officers with a disability and there should be an ill health dismissal process rather than the Unsatisfactory Attendance Process. A new policy is to be produced immediately offering those officers with a disability the protection under the Equality Act.
We also enquired about this year's 1% uplift in police officers pay and the Police Authority confirmed it has been agreed. We now wait confirmation of the payment date.
Finally, we raised serious concerns about the lack of published regulations regarding our status and T&C's for BTP officers. We have all experienced situations where we have relied on Police Regulations and BTP managers have stated that the BTP don't adhere to that particular Regulation. So in essence we have requested a full written version of BTP Police Regulations in order that they can be published for all to see. We cannot continue with the current format where we have the Conduct and Performance regulations published but the rest is down to interpretation depending on where you are based or who your line manager is. Obviously this is not an overnight task but we are moving in the right direction.
We also attended a National Negotiation Meeting this month, where we discussed the suggested notion of introducing emergency rosters where police stations have no resilience and lack resources to meet the demand. We informed the chair that to date we have not been consulted about these changes as per Winsor and Police Regulations. Any implementation of an emergency roster would result in those officers working that particular roster for a minimum of 12 months as per regulations. Those officers cannot therefore be compelled to work any new rosters proposed by the Demand Review in April 2017.
We also discussed the Working Time Agreement, new Roster Agreement and the re-drafting of the Machinery of Negotiation. These Regulations set out how the Federation negotiates T&C's and any changes to those regulations, and how the Federation is set up. These documents are now in draft form and waiting any amendments by the Force. All these documents are important in ensuring the Force and the Federation are held to account.
Looking to the future, we have meetings planned with the BTPA, Scottish Government and the Home Office post October regarding the Infrastructure review. We watch closely the progression of the Demand Review and the CID Review regarding the introduction of a new roster and the continued consultations regarding those proposals.
I hope this has given you all an insight into the latest news from your Federation.
The quote for the month is: "If you are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you".
Chairman BTP Federation