6. The BTP Workforce
BTP officers and staff are employees of the BTPA, with officers also being office holders accountable to the Chief Constable of BTP. Those officers and staff within BTP in Scotland at the time of transfer will become officers and staff of Police Scotland and the SPA respectively.
It is Scottish Government policy that staff transferring within the public sector should do so as far as possible without detriment. As well as engaging with BTPA, BTP, Police Scotland and the SPA, the Scottish Government proposes to engage early with officer and staff associations and representatives in order to provide clarity and reassurance as the implications of transfer for existing terms and conditions.
Question 6: What are your views regarding our proposals for BTP officer and staff transferring to Police Scotland? Do you have views on a preferred option for the timing of negotiating terms and conditions?
6.1 85 respondents addressed this question.
Views on proposals for transferring BTP officers and staff
6.2 The Scottish Government proposed two broad options for the process of transferring into Police Scotland: negotiation and agreement with officers, staff and their representative associations over the terms on which transfer will occur; or transferring BTP officers and staff on their existing terms and conditions at the point of transfer with a view to harmonising these in due course.
6.3 Views were divided amongst respondents between the first of the Scottish Government options outlined above, and an emerging third option, that of transferring on existing terms and conditions but retaining these for existing officers without harmonising them. Those advocating the latter approach far outweighed those supporting negotiation on terms and conditions.
6.4 A number of arguments were put forward against harmonisation of terms and conditions for existing BTP officers and staff:
- There should be a "no detriment" principle in keeping with the Smith agreement.
- Staff joined the BTP and therefore should retain the terms and conditions of the BTP.
- BTP officers throughout the UK should have consistent terms and conditions.
- BTP officers were not consulted on the integration with Police Scotland and have not agreed to this, so should not have their pay and conditions changed due to integration.
- Harmonisation of pay and conditions with general Police Scotland officers will impact negatively on morale of BTP officers.
- TUPE regulations ensure that no officer should suffer loss of terms and conditions.
6.5 Amongst the few respondents in favour of negotiating terms and conditions and harmonisation, the key argument was that what they envisaged as a "two-tier" system of terms and conditions in one police force will not work. One individual remarked that any BTP officer with concerns over harmonisation could transfer to England and Wales.
6.6 More specific comments were made regarding the transference of BTP officers and staff. Some concern was expressed that officers would be required to re-locate against their wishes; one individual recommended that all officers should be offered a posting in England and Wales should they prefer this option to that of integration with Police Scotland; another urged that there should be no redundancies as a result of the merger. A respondent from the rail industry highlighted the need to consider the career paths of BTP officers following integration:
"The proposals would result in two classes of railway policing officers in the UK. Those on standard BTP employment terms and conditions in England and Wales, and those in Scotland who police the railway under Police Scotland employment terms and conditions. This break of terms and conditions will affect the ability of railway policing officers to transfer across the UK to progress their career" (TransPennine Express).
Views on a preferred option for the timing of negotiating terms and conditions
6.7 There were contrasting views within and across sectors on the timing of negotiating terms and conditions. A general view, however, was that discussions should be open and transparent:
"Ensure that Government and Senior officers meet and discuss openly and fully with open meetings for rank and file officers and staff to attend" (Individual respondent).
6.8 The prevailing view was that engagement over terms and conditions should commence early in order to limit uncertainty and insecurity amongst current BTP officers in Scotland. It was considered vital that BTP officers could get on with their work without worry over their future job security:
"Staff transfers and the need to safeguard terms and conditions is causing significant concern to officers and staff. Therefore early sight of the legal mechanism proposed by the Scottish Government to effect the transfer will allay some of the uncertainty" (Police Superintendent's Association of England and Wales).
"The proposal and its implications for terms and conditions will inevitably cause significant uncertainty for affected staff. Understanding the legal framework for transfer will help reduce this" (British Transport Police).
6.9 Whereas several individual respondents, rail industry and other representative bodies called for negotiations over conditions to be conducted and finalised prior to transfer, largely to avoid what they could foresee as unrest at a later date, others called for an extended period for negotiations, possibly post transfer, in order to be meaningful and to avoid rushing important decisions.
6.10 Overall, there was no clear recommendation for timing of negotiation over terms and conditions, other than commencing this early and ensuring the process is transparent and inclusive.
Question 7: What are the main points to consider when discussing the future of pensions for BTP officers and staff?
Views on the main points to consider
6.11 98 respondents addressed this question, although amongst these four respondents simply re-iterated their opposition to integration.
6.12 A common theme was the importance of the issue of pensions for BTP staff. Indeed some respondents suggested that fear of losing current pension entitlements was at the heart of most of the opposition to integration amongst BTP officers in Scotland.
6.13 Timeliness in providing clarity on pension arrangements post-integration was highlighted as key by a few respondents, not only for the sake of existing officers, but also for planning purposes:
"A decision on the future of the BTP Superannuation schemes is important to inform the triennial investment strategy (as it would affect the actuarial valuation). Decisions on investment strategy are expected to be considered by the end of 2017, so clarity on future set-up would be required as soon as possible, and in any case before that process gets underway" (British Transport Police Authority).
6.14 A few respondents expressed surprise that what they considered to be such a significant issue had been put to the public and others in a general consultation rather than discussed beforehand with BTP serving and retired officers.
6.15 The predominant view across sectors was that current BTP officers who are integrated into Police Scotland should retain their existing pension rights and arrangements. At least 70 respondents clearly supported this view with many providing supporting rationales:
- Officers originally joined the BTP and not Police Scotland so should retain BTP rights.
- Maintaining existing rights provides parity with contemporaries in England and Wales.
- BTP provide a specialist service so should have a special pension.
- Integration is being forced upon BTP officers and they have not chosen this, nor forseen it.
- Changing pensions will impact negatively on morale.
- There may be an exodus of BTP officers to England and Wales if their pension entitlement and arrangements change as a result of integration.
- There are only a small number of officers affected and it would cause less disruption simply to let them continue on the same conditions until retirement.
- On previous occasions when there has been major change ( e.g. privatisation of the railways), existing pensions have been protected.
- The current BTP officer pension scheme is a private scheme so should not be changed by a public body.
- BTP staff have paid more into their pensions and should expect more out than general Police Scotland officers.
6.16 Views put forward by only a few respondents were that anyone policing the railways post-integration should have the same pension rights and arrangements as Police Scotland officers. One individual respondent remarked that Police Scotland officers have already experienced having their pension arrangements altered and BTP officers should be no different.
6.17 There were mixed views over whether BTP staff leaving this specialism for a more general role should lose BTP pension entitlement in doing so. Whilst a few respondents considered this reasonable, others disagreed, with one individual respondent recommending that the threat of losing pension rights should not become a barrier to promotion.
6.18 The case of already retired BTP officers was raised by a few respondents who called for clarity on whether they will maintain their pension entitlement (as respondents advocated) or have these changed to those of Police Scotland. One respondent queried how retired officers on the protected scheme would be dealt with. The overriding view was that retired BTP officers should suffer no detriment to their existing entitlement.
More specific points to consider
6.19 A few respondents raised other, more specific points to consider when discussing the future of pensions for BTP officers and staff:
- Cost of maintaining the BTP pensions. A minority view was that these pensions should be harmonised with Police Scotland pensions to keep costs affordable, so long as officers are given sufficient advanced warning: "Final salary pensions should be phased out and money purchase / define benefits schemes introduced, as per private sector employees. The Scottish public sector cannot afford to keep paying gold plated pensions" (Individual respondent).
- Staff need to feel listened to in discussions over pensions which are so significant for them and perhaps an independent arbitrator could usefully facilitate discussions.
- The situation could be helped by effective "selling" of the benefits of Police Scotland pensions.