Why bobbies are marching to a different beat
The problems actually started way back in 1919 – the last time the police went on strike over pay and conditions. Then, they had no pensions and the top rate of pay for a Metropolitan constable was 48 shillings (a skilled shipyard fitter earned 68s 4d a week). The Army was deployed on the streets to keep order and the police won the increase they wanted; but it was a Pyrrhic victory. To stop anything similar happening again, legislation was introduced to prohibit the police from joining a trade union, taking industrial action or belonging to a political party.
With no industrial muscle, the police’s pay again began to fall behind that of other workers. By the 1970s, the miners and the dockers – and almost everyone else – went out on strike, but the police could not. By 1978, when a committee chaired by Lord Edmund-Davies was convened to consider the issue once more, their pay was so low that some officers were on supplementary benefit because they earned less than £2,000 a year.