As a police officer, you get double money to work at short notice on a rest day, time-and-a-half for a bit more notice, and time-and-a-third for "normal" overtime. In many forces, you still get a Special Priority Payment for being a 24/7 response officer, or a custody officer, or various other roles that have unpleasant working hours or conditions. This can be withheld if your sickness level is too high.
The result of these payments is a queue of people with their hands up to bail the force out on days when the minimum resourcing levels have backfired. A list of people who struggle in when they are genuinely sick to keep their Bradford score down. A glut of people volunteering for every operation and to stay on late (pre-planned) to cover for the sickness of other officers on other teams. There's good money to be had, therefore someone can always be found for the task. Police officers might be thick but we're not stupid.
Theresa May's pay review will consider getting rid of "double time", cutting the notice required of shift changes from three months, possibly addressing overtime altogether (a move to salary-based pay a possibility???). In return for these changes, which could cut several thousand off some officers' paychecks, yippididoodah: the right to strike.
Unfortunately, in the face of a sub-inflation pay rise for the next few years (effectively a pay cut), the loss of our SPPs - which is now accepted force wide in Blandshire as inevitable - and further cuts to pay and working conditions, the right to strike simply won't cut it.
At the moment, a Chief Officer can order a police officer to come to work if they are operationally required. Most forces have a policy of starting with officers due at work later that day, then ones on rest days, then ones on leave, which means it is rare to get called into work when you were on holiday unless something explodes. But it does happen, and you have to obey. A Chief Officer can also change an officer's shift pattern without permission, including creating a 65hr working week, can alter any shift with 14 days notice to cover absences/sickness, can post an officer to any part of the force within 20 miles (as the crow flies) of their home, and can move an officer to any department with no consultation whatsoever. A refusal to come into work when ordered, or to work the extra shifts, may result in disciplinary proceedings with the possibility of fines, demotion, etc.
We put up with all of the above because we are well paid when we are inconvenienced. The combination of the extreme squeeze on resources anticipated by most forces, coupled with the removal of our perks, will not be pretty. I predict a spate of mobile phone battery outages, plenty of off-duty drinking, and last minute trips abroad on days off, to areas without transport links.
When people describe policing as an unpleasant job, they are usually referring to the blood and gore, the violence and hatred, the possibility of death on duty. These things set the job apart from others. Our inability to refuse certain duties or overtime is, however, a far greater burden. If you stop compensating people for this, you stop recognising its significance.
Police officers don't want this to change. We want to work in an unpleasant, burdensome job, we are proud of it. We don't want the right to strike: we want to work and be paid for it.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.