LONDON (Reuters) - Police officers angry with the coalition government’s plans to cut jobs and freeze pay will vote on whether they want the right to strike, the body representing them said on Thursday.
The Police Federation, which represents 135,000 ordinary “bobbies” and low ranking officers in England and Wales, said the move to seek full industrial rights showed its members were infuriated by the government’s austerity drive.
“Officers genuinely feel what the government is doing is decimating the best of British policing,” a Federation spokesman said. “The victim of that decimation will be the British public.”
The Conservative-led coalition is seeking to make cuts of some 20 percent to police budgets as part of wider austerity measures designed to reduce a huge budget deficit.
Like all public sector workers, police officers are facing a pay freeze and higher pension contributions.
Police officers last went on strike in 1919 in a dispute over pay and have been barred from taking any industrial action since the 1990s.
However, even if members vote for the right to strike, the change would require the law to be amended and could be blocked by parliament.
A government-commissioned report into police pay and conditions last week recommended other wide-ranging changes which would allow officers to be sacked, cut starting salaries, raise the pension age and require staff to have better qualifications.
The Federation said the review for some officers was “the last straw,” and it intended to hold a protest in central London ahead of its annual conference in May.
In 2008, about 20,000 off-duty officers marched in London in the biggest police protest ever staged in Britain in a pay row with the then Labour government of Gordon Brown.
“The mood of the membership is such anger, far greater than we saw in 2008, and so we are very conscious that what we plan needs to be able to demonstrate their strength of feeling,” the spokesman said.
Editing by Karolina Tagaris