Queensland’s top cop has been blindsided by a union power play which forced the State Government to stop any moves by the Police Commissioner to compel his senior officers to take redundancies.
The government rebuff comes as one of the key unions involved said the Queensland Police Service’s target for the job losses is around 30 positions too high.
Up to 110 commissioned officers’ positions – those on the ranks between Inspector and Chief Superintendent – would go, along with 212 civilian positions, under a restructure designed to boost frontline policing and cut bureaucracy.
Last week Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said he would look at his options in terms of asking the government for a potential law change if the QPS did not get enough commissioned rank officers to take voluntary redundancies.
The proposal was backed by Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney at the time.
However after the state government held discussions late last week with the Queensland Police Union, Premier Campbell Newman today announced the government would not pass legislation to "force people out the door in the QPS."
Mr Newman also pledged any savings made from the restructure would remain in the coffers of the Queensland Police Service budget.
"The money will stay and he can redeploy it in any way he sees fit as long as it's to frontline service delivery," Mr Newman said.
"It’s his plan, he’s not been asked by the government to save money and hand it back to consolidated revenue," he said.
"We haven't asked him to do this (restructure). He has chosen to do it."
Today in an email to the police rank and file, the QPU said Assistant General Secretary Denis Sycz the weekend meeting had left the State Government in "no doubt" of their opposition to any moves by the Commissioner to force redundancies.
"The QPUE explained in no uncertain terms that this type of 'forced redundancy and dismissal' power could be abused Police Commissioners, and as such the State Government has today announced that they will not entertain any plans by Commissioner Ian Stewart to change the law and that there will be no legislation changes to allow forced redundancies for sworn police," wrote the union.
The move was welcomed by the Queensland Police Commissioned Officers’ Union which represents the state’s 390 senior officers.
"We’re very happy that matter is now off the table, that there will be no forced redundancies, that’s been our position from day one," said Union President Detective Superintendent John Pointing.
The threat of forced redundancies has been a 'dark cloud' hanging over the heads of senior police, he said.
"Many members and their families have been beside themselves.
"A lot of people have been greatly upset over the last couple of weeks thinking they have dedicated years and years of service to the Queensland Police really only to be thrown on the trash heap," he said.
“The quid pro quo is that police are guaranteed a job until they retire. We must retire at 60, so people structure their life around that end date and there have been some very, very tough times for many people over the past couple of weeks," he said.
The Police Commissioner said the government’s decision meant he would consider other options including relocating commissioned officers to boost the frontline.
Mr Stewart said the QPS was yet to seek expressions of interest from commissioned officers taking voluntary redundancies.
Once the process was complete, he would consider available options if too few commissioned officers lodged expressions of interest.
"As stated previously, an option might have been to seek a legislative change to enable forced redundancies of commissioned officers.
"As the Government has decided it does not support this approach, I am prepared to consider other options which could include attrition and relocation of commissioned officers to supplement frontline services.
“I am grateful to the Government for clarifying its position on this matter.
Mr Stewart said he would continue to consult with the all stakeholders on the proposed changes to the QPS.
"It would be my preference that we did not lose any current member but the fact is we are required to find ways to provide increased value for money for each dollar of taxpayers’ money while still providing a high standard of policing services to the community," he said.
The withdrawal of government support for forced redundancies comes as the QPS has been forced to revise the number of police jobs estimated to go under the restructure.
The revision was prompted by the Queensland Police Commissioned Officers Union which believes there are only 74 police jobs required to go for the restructure.
Det-Supt Pointing said the union had come up with a different number using the QPS’s own documentation on the restructure and raised it with the service last Friday.
"Seventy-four people or positions are no longer necessary which is a far cry from 110," he said.
Det-Supt Pointing said the numbers could be reached through natural attrition and in some cases, voluntary redundancies.
"We are a progressive union and we recognise government and police departments have to move and restructure in order to meet the ever-changing needs of society. It’s just unfortunate we weren’t consulted on the new restructure by the police department," he said.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart confirmed the service was checking the accuracy of all proposed organisational charts for the restructure.
"There is a risk that assessment of these charts by individuals not involved in the review process could lead to double counting of some positions," he said in a statement to Seven News.
He said the process to check the numbers was expected to take until Wednesday but at this stage, the QPS did not expect any change to the assessment that up to 110 jobs could be abolished.
"The checking process is ongoing but at this time the Queensland Police Service remains of the view that the statement is still correct," he said.
Police Minister Jack Dempsey said Mr Stewart would be able to find alternative ways to ensure there are no forced redundancies.