PSNI accused of threatening officers in row over pensions
A former chairman of the Police Federation has accused the PSNI of adopting "appalling" tactics to silence a group of officers who have raised concerns about the workings of their union.
The officers – who have challenged the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) over proposed reforms to police pensions that could see policemen and women working on the front line until they are 60 – were warned by PSNI bosses they could face criminal charges if they continued to publicly voice their grievances.
Jimmy Spratt MLA, an ex-RUC officer and federation official, said he was "deeply troubled" by what appeared to be PSNI attempts to stop officers from raising "reasonable concerns" about their pensions and questioning their union officials.
A number of officers dissatisfied with how the PFNI has represented them in relation to pension reforms have been actively lobbying Government ministers, MPs, MLAs and other police officers for support.
Last week six of the officers were told by Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Finlay that they could be charged with causing disaffection within the force and unlawfully forming a trade union under the Police (NI) Act 1988.
If charged and found guilty at trial the officers, of constable and sergeant rank, could be jailed for up to two years.
An email was then forwarded by Mr Finlay to all officers warning against causing disaffection within the force.
"It seems to me that the PSNI does not want to allow freedom of expression," said Mr Spratt.
A number of officers have accused the PFNI of failing to properly challenge the Government's police pension reforms that will see policemen and women working longer for less.
They also claimed that the PFNI refused to address their concerns or keep them informed about the pension plans and negotiations with the Government.
The PFNI has strenuously denied the claims and stressed that negotiations over pension reforms were ongoing.
"They are not unreasonable concerns being raised by these officers. They believe they are not being kept informed about the new regulations or how they will affect them. They also feel they are being kept in the dark about what has been done by the federation to try and dissuade the Government from making these pension changes," said Mr Spratt.
The DUP man added: "The PSNI should have stayed out of this. It is appalling that senior command are making threats to these officers."
The PFNI has insisted that pension consultations are ongoing.
In a recent statement, it said: "This is still a work-in-progress with further meetings scheduled for October as we continue to campaign for all our members and explore every possible avenue in order to achieve the best possible outcome."
Story so far
A number of police officers recently formed a group to campaign against government changes to their pensions. Unhappy with how the Police Federation has dealt with the issue, some officers have lobbied politicians for support. They have since been warned that they could be in breach of the Police (NI) Act 1988 which states that it is a criminal offence to cause disaffection within the force.