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Date: Thurs 28 April 2011

Using police to plug staffing gaps is “economic madness” says UNISON

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union representing police staff, has condemned plans to plug staffing gaps by taking police officers off the streets to perform civilian roles.

The proposal, by Central Scotland Police, would see eight police officers taken off normal duties and deployed into custody units to perform the roles of civilian staff. A further ten would receive custody training and would be used on an ad hoc basis to cover leave and sickness absences.

The plans also involve imposing a new shift system on the force’s police custody security officers (PCSOs), moving staff from a five day to a seven day rota, a pattern of work that was scrapped by the force several years ago as it offered no work/life balance.

UNISON has condemned the move, which is the result of a custody management review that highlighted a need to increase staffing numbers to a safer level. It also raised concerns over working conditions in the unit, with staff often having to work through breaks to meet operational needs.

James Douglas, branch secretary of UNISON’s Stirling Council branch, said: “We’ve challenged the decision to use police officers instead of employing properly trained civilian staff, but we’ve been told this is down to political pressure on the force to maintain police numbers.

“It’s economic madness to plug staffing gaps with police officers – at a huge additional cost to the taxpayer – and the public should not be left to pay the price.

“Staff are angry about the imposition of a new seven day shift system but they are even angrier that the employer has refused to consult with them on the issue. We’ve lodged a formal dispute and, although we’re hopeful of a resolution, we can not rule out industrial action.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Many forces in Scotland are way behind in the efficient deployment of police staffs. In England, 39% of police personnel are civilians, while in Scotland it has fallen to 26.5%.

2. Police boards face a real terms cut of at least 6% and, as the government has instructed that police officer numbers have to be maintained, the cuts will fall almost entirely on police (civilian) staff. Police boards have also reported that they will have to backfill civilian posts with police officers. This means more police officers will be taken off the street to perform tasks they are unsuited or unqualified to do – at a huge additional cost to the taxpayer.

3. For further information contact James Douglas, branch secretary of UNISON’s Stirling Council branch, on 01786 443 440 or Trisha Hamilton, UNISON’s communications officer on 0141 342 2877. Or log on to www.unison-scotland.org.uk

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