Fair work fight

May 16, 2018

A ‘‘cash grab’’ by Victoria Police command will leave country police members tired, distressed and emotional, a senior detective claims.

Police from Eastern Division regions three, four and five have been battling head office in Melbourne for more than three years.

The dispute will reach the penultimate stage at a Fair Work Commission hearing in July after arbitration failed.

A veteran detective, who spoke to The News on the condition of anonymity, said the changes to afternoon shifts across the north-east would decimate the force.

‘‘I can’t understand where command are coming from,’’ he said.

‘‘They tried this in the Western Region and it failed... now they’re trying it again. This is just a blatant cash grab by the department.’’

The high command disagreed and argued its ‘‘priority is to provide the very best service to the community’’.

The afternoon shift work changes will affect detectives who work in towns such as Echuca, Benalla, Cobram, Kyabram, Seymour and Yarrawonga.

According to Eastern Division Region detectives, the end result will mean those working during the night will have to cover an increased area.

‘‘Uniform members at crime scenes will have to wait longer, victims and their families will be disadvantaged and police detectives will become fatigued,’’ the detective said.

Previously a number of detectives were on call during the night in a region, but the police command wants one person to be working full-time, covering the same area.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt has seen these sorts of arrangements in other parts of the state and said it effectively amounted to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

‘‘The majority of a detective’s work is following up avenues of inquiry to solve crime,’’ he said.

‘‘While there is an essential role in attending scenes after hours, this needs to be balanced against the workload that comes after an incident occurs.

‘‘Our members tell us that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for detectives from further away to drive into another response zone to complete initial action at a crime scene, only to hand that job to local detectives the following day.’’

The proposed changes means detectives working in Shepparton will now have to travel to Wallan to attend a crime scene, where in the past an on-call detective from Wallan could be called.

‘‘Then what happens in Shepparton?’’ the detective said.

‘‘Rather than a Seymour detective driving 60km in 44 minutes, we’ll now be forced to travel for 133km taking an hour and 33 minutes.’’

Eastern Region Division three acting Superintendent David Ryan said policing was not what it used to be and change was needed.

‘‘What we’ve sought to do is to have more than just day shifts... having a detective working (full-time) and immediately available to respond to jobs,’’ he said.

‘‘We don’t currently have that flexibility because of historical working patterns.’’

Supt Ryan said hours and hours of negotiation had gone on behind the scenes, which all centred around logistical issues but nothing insurmountable.

‘‘We haven’t been able to come to an agreement despite a lot of negotiation and have had to draw a line in the sand,’’ he said.

‘‘We don’t see the change in work pattern as being onerous. There are some health and safety issues and we’re conscious of those.’’

Supt Ryan said Victoria Police command would never put any members in danger and if the Fair Work Commission argued against the proposed changes, it was not something they would pursue.

The issue will be heard by the Fair Work Commission on July 16.

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