Canterbury cops collecting food donations for 'struggling' colleagues

A box asking for 'discreet' donation and collection of non-perishable items has been placed in a...
A box asking for 'discreet' donation and collection of non-perishable items has been placed in a Christchurch police station.. Photo: Supplied
Police officers in Canterbury are collecting food donations for colleagues “struggling” with the cost of living as their battle with the government for better pay continues.

A photo of a collection box at a police station in the Canterbury district has been posted online, the sign reading:

“This box is for the discreet donation and collection of non-perishable items for our police staff who are struggling to put food on the table.

“For those who are struggling and want to speak to someone, you can discreetly contact myself or our welfare team on the details below.”

The names and numbers have been redacted in the online photo but the people listed are on the Police Association’s Christchurch committee.

The request for donations comes as police continue to fight the government for a wage increase.

Earlier this month the government made an offer including a $5000 general wage increase backdated from November 1, 2023, and a 5.25 percent in police allowances.

That would have been followed by a general wage increase of 4 percent from September 1, 2024, with an allowance increase of 4 percent, followed by another pay increase of 4 percent from July 1, 2025, accompanied by an allowance increase of 4 percent.

The Police Association rejected the offer, and staff said it was “insulting”.

Yesterday The New Zealand Herald reported that the government had made a further offer for sworn staff to vote on.

The terms of the revised offer suggest the government managed to cough up $200-$250 million more for the offer, including paid overtime from July next year and a $1500 lump sum payment in lieu of more back pay.

Police Association president Chris Cahill sent staff an email with the latest offer and advised he did not believe it would be possible to negotiate for more so if it was rejected, it would go to arbitration.

The post appeared online soon after.

“So, for those that think the pay offer isn’t so bad. This is currently somewhere in the Canterbury district,” the caption said.

“Think long and hard before voting. Some of your colleagues are really struggling, and this should never be the case.

“We need to make sure those that put theirs lives on the line when they go to work can afford to look after their families.”

The partner of a senior detective spoke to the Herald about her family’s situation.

Association president Chris Cahill said officers had lambasted the offer as "a kick in the guts",...
Police Association president Chris Cahill . Photo: RNZ
“(He) has been in the police almost 20 years, he is a detective sergeant and over the past few years works a second job a few times a month in order to cover the extra costs life brings,” she said.

“I also work full time - but with three kids, we still live week to week.

“He has a dangerous and stressful job and the salary does not reflect the pressure and stress, both current and long term, he endures.

“In the first time in his career, he is starting to think of career opportunities outside the police.”

The woman said police would lose, and had already lost, good officers

“They will not be able to attract the numbers needed with such low salaries… (my husband) runs a team of detectives and in 17 years his salary has only just doubled.

“They see the worst of society… it’s a bit of a thankless job.”

There was much support for the food donation initiative online.

“I hope more people quit and/or move to Aussie and less people apply to be cops. It’s gonna have to turn to sh*t before they realise how important it is to pay us properly,” said one police staffer.

Another had advice for anyone thinking of joining police.

“Don’t. Or if you do, just be aware of the low pay, being overworked, treated like sh*t, tired all the time, not being allowed to progress as there aren’t enough frontline cops and you have no say in where they put you.

“If you do decide to join, and you decide it’s not for you - then leave. There is no shame in that.”

A third said: “In 21 years I can’t remember it being this bad.”

Cahill confirmed he had seen the post.

“The association is aware that the local Christchurch association committee has established a collection box for food donations to assist colleagues who they understand are struggling with current cost of living pressures,” he told the Herald.

“This is a genuine local initiative - but it has not been instigated by our national office.

“It demonstrates that the concerns we have raised about police staff struggling with the cost of living crisis is real.

“Police staff should not be in this position and I know the public will be concerned to hear this is the case.”

Members of the public posted comments in support of the food donation initiative.

“Keen to donate some supermarket vouchers to wherever this is, please message me,” said one woman.

“Our everyday heroes should not be struggling like this.”

Another wrote: “Fabulous work from our blue family helping each other - but the fact our families are struggling this much is just disgusting.”

“The government should be embarrassed that’s cops need food donations to live. No one I know joins a job to go into a food bank queue,” a serving officer said.

A source said that this week’s offer was “not going down well” amongst staff with a concern they would not get the overtime rate proposed.

”It will be managed so they can’t get it,” said the source.

Police want a "refocus" of their work, according to a briefing paper prepared for the new Police...
Police rejected an offer from the previous government in September last year. Photo: RNZ
The lump sum payment was labelled a “bribe” and the 4 percent was less than inflation.

Police rejected an offer from the previous government in September last year, which included a permanent $4000 pay increase backdated to April last year and a 4 percent increase from April this year.

Cahill earlier said back pay remained a central issue, and argued police had been waiting months for a pay offer that had been delayed. He believed no offer would be agreed to without back pay to July last year.

He said there had been an “unprecedented” response from association members critical of the offer. Cahill said it was stark just how “hand-to-mouth” some officers were living, including waiting for payday to clear their bills and resorting to using food banks.

Earlier this month the Herald revealed that dozens of frustrated frontline police officers are waiting for sign-off from the New Zealand police force to head to Australia for higher-paying jobs, thousands of dollars sign-on fees and relocation costs.

The Herald confirmed that of the 200 police officers who resigned from the New Zealand police last year, 50 are already working as police officers across the Tasman.

Another 70 are waiting to leave New Zealand, with promises of tax-free sign-on fees as well as relocation costs of up to $25k. A police source said 25 officers from the Counties-Manukau police hub are in that waiting group.