Sunday, March 28, 2010
Dear Police Commissioner Howard Broad,Why do the police always take the bosses' side in an industrial dispute?
It seems whenever my union, Unite, is trying to help a group of workers, your uniformed staff can't wait to help some ratbag employer by charging us with trespass or even arresting us.
Recently, I met one of your constables at a picket line. The arrogant little sod, who looked 12 years old, announced that he could use a charge of disorderly behaviour to arrest me or anyone else for anything he liked. Where do you get these recruits from?
Fortunately for us, in this instance his sergeant arrived and we resolved the matter. But my staff have been arrested or threatened with arrest a dozen times in the past 12 months. None of those arrested has been convicted.
I normally regard this as an occupational hazard, but this week Judge Peter Spiller in the Manukau District Court found that your staff had misused their powers by falsely arresting and falsely imprisoning one of my staff.
He was awarded $4000 in damages and legal costs.
Your staff instinctively side with the boss and threaten to arrest us or trespass us. Once we've been jailed, your staff make it a condition of bail that we not go near the employer's business. Then, after a few days, the charges are quietly dropped or thrown out of court.
It's a total misuse of power. You wouldn't dare do this to a compliance officer investigating a complaint from the local council, fire department or the SPCA.
It's instructive to workers seeing how police side with their bosses, even if they are wrong.
To counter this abuse takes a lot of resources. I have to pursue the matter through the courts so I don't bother. But in this case, one of the two officials who had been arrested decided he'd had enough and took a private prosecution for misuse of police powers, wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.
He won but he shouldn't have had to do it.
Let me tell you more about the incident, in which your officers were in cahoots from day one with a ratbag employer.
This was someone who sacked a woman because she was pregnant. That was unlawful.
He had refused to let his workers join a union. That was unlawful.
When he was taken to mediation he refused to comply with the agreement reached. That was unlawful.
He locked out his workers for a month without pay and brought in scab workers to replace them. That was unlawful.
He then claimed these workers were family members, working for nothing. That was untrue.
Two Unite officials then entered the premises, as the law permits, to investigate this breach by the employer.
This employer later claimed there had been a confrontation and he'd been physically threatened, though interestingly he didn't make a complaint the following day.
Your officers took this ratbag's word and arrested my staff, who were banned from the site under threat of a trespass charge.
Incidentally, one of the officials was Pakeha and the other Maori: your officers booked and released the former but interrogated and incarcerated the latter for several hours. It appears they just assumed he was the person who had threatened the boss.
He hadn't. When it went to court and the boss was on oath, his story was exposed: the plaintiff had merely been acting as a witness for the other official. He hadn't said a word and had had his hands in his pockets the whole time.
The court found he had acted lawfully and had not done anything wrong. He was merely a witness to ensure that the employer didn't tell lies - as they thought he would.
So here are some questions for you. What are you going to do about this? Why do your staff always assume the boss isn't a liar? Why do they have the innocent arrested while a ratbag gets away with a crime?
Your officers have a job to uphold the law, not to act as private security enforcers for bosses who commit crimes against their workers.
Their actions cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. Who is held to account?
Any chief executive should want to know why his staff are acting illegally. I look forward to a change of behaviour from your staff.