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GPF survey again finds deep unease in police workforce

Eyleen Gomez

Nearly half the number of officers within the Royal Gibraltar Police say they have been bullied at work, with over 90% of these saying they have been bullied by either middle or senior management, according to a survey by the Gibraltar Police Federation.

Over the past year, the RGP has experienced a number of changes, including the appointment of the new Commissioner of Police, Richard Ullger, who gave assurances that he would address the outcome of the survey “immediately.”

This position was welcomed by the GPF, who published the survey results on Tuesday and said: “We have always been willing to work alongside Command in order to improve any aspect that could better officers working conditions of our members.”

“Our suggestions or advice are now being taken on board and we are grateful to management for this.”

The survey was conducted between November and December last year, and 183 out of the GPF’s 220 members responded to it.

With 83% of the surveys completed, slightly lower than the 90% the previous year, the GPF said the response has been “extremely positive” and the results “highlight the issues that officers feel need to be addressed.”

This includes issues such as morale at work, bullying, staffing levels, satisfaction with pay, shifts, and overall job satisfaction.

This was the third Gibraltar Police Federation survey conducted among members, and although the results were available before Christmas, the organisers thought it would be best to wait until after the Covid-19 health crisis on the Rock passed its peak before publishing the results.

RESULTS

While 44% of the respondents expressed low or very low morale, 72% of officers perceived the morale of the RGP as low or very low.

Half of the workforce said they have contemplated leaving their jobs over the last 12 months, with the majority citing reasons such as poor organisational management, high stress levels, low morale and poor work-life balance.

Meanwhile, 7% said they would leave because of bullying, down from 13% the previous year, and other reasons given included personal/family reasons and salary potential in other jobs.

Just under half of those surveyed, 46%, said they had been a victim of bullying or victimisation at work, and 50% said they had been bullied within the last year.

The GPF said 46% of those officers who said they have been bullied represents 85 officers.

Of these, 42 said they had been bullied in the past year, meanwhile 93% said they had been bullied by either middle or senior management.

And while 59% said they had witnessed bullying at work, 91% did not report the incident for fear of repercussions and no faith in a positive outcome.

Some 111 officers reported to have witnessed bullying, and 75 individuals surveyed said they had witnessed this during the past year.

Only 16% of officers said they are confident of reporting matters through the grievance procedure process.

On shift patterns, 31% said they were satisfied with the current five-shift system.

However, 66% said the RGP should operate a different Response Team pattern of a 12-hour shift system with four on and four off days, as many felt the current manpower levels are not properly sustained with rest days and change of hours constantly changed to meet operational demands.

And although 61% of members said they were satisfied with their current salary, 72% said they were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with their allowances.

However, 78% of the members said they were unsatisfied with the current staffing levels in their shifts and departments, highlighting health and safety issues with respect to low manpower levels and continued higher operational demands.

Meanwhile only 10% of officers reported that they felt safe whilst carrying out operational duties.

Some 75% of the respondents feel overworked, with 50% saying they are currently suffering from work-related stress.

And while 20% were satisfied with the level of aftercare provided to officers by the organisation after an incident, 49% of officers were not satisfied with the level of counselling offered by the organisation.

71% of the members have reported that they have had instances of their rest days changed, with 58% not been given the required 15 days’ notice.

One in five members reported that their working hours/shifts been changed, 19% of which had had their duties changed more than 11 times over the past year.

16% of officers have reported that they are satisfied with the management of refreshment breaks and facilities.

And while 50% were satisfied with their personal safety equipment, 91% of officers are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with IT facilities.

Only 6% of officers are satisfied with the security at police buildings.

Nearly 70% did not feel that their promotion prospects were linked to their experience or qualifications, and a large percentage did not feel that they were adequately managed with respect to personal assessments, mentoring or attachments, internal transfers, specialist training and retraining.

GOING FORWARD

“The most valuable asset of our organisation are its officers and staff,” the GPF said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Employee satisfaction stems from working for an organization that values employees’ talents, qualifications and expertise.”

“Officers need to feel valued and treated with respect.”

“They need to have their proper refreshment breaks and unbroken rest days to be fresh, ready and able to deal with the strenuous demands that come with the job.”

“Needless to say, a happy workforce will promote morale and will increase productivity.”

The results of this years’ survey were “slightly more positive” than those conducted in the two previous years, a spokesman for the GPF added.

The survey results have been shared with management and the Federation said it will again approach them with a view of working together and improving the working conditions and procedures within the organisation.

Over the past year, the role of the Commissioner of Police has been handed to Richard Ullger after the former Commissioner, Ian McGrail, retired last summer.

The GPF said it has welcomed working with Mr Ullger at the helm of the police force when addressing bullying in the workplace.

A spokesman for the GPF said surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019 placed a spotlight on “severe morale issues within the RGP” which was due to several factors, including concerns over the management or leadership style of senior managers.

“Reports of bullying echoed in both surveys were brushed aside, and the survey itself classified as raw data, as if the officers’ concerns were insignificant,” the spokesman added.

“Even though the survey data reflected many instances of bullying we never had an admission of this, let alone deal with the problem.”

“We are extremely pleased that senior management have allowed us to team up with Dignity at Work Now, with presentations to be delivered in the coming weeks, to all officers of all ranks inclusive of our Commissioner.”

The RGP and the GPF have been working together to devise a Bullying at Work Policy which is acceptable to both sides and revamping the existing grievance procedure.

Members from the GPF have recently been invited to attend training days and deliver presentations to officers.

The GPF said that while none of these documents are perfect, it said that many of the recommendations put forward to senior management were implemented into these policies.

“It has taken a long time for the Gibraltar Police Federation to be accepted within the higher echelons of the RGP for what it represents, and to be treated fairly,” a spokesman for the GPF said.

“We only have to look back at the beginning of 2019 when six disciplinary notices were issued to the Chairman and the Secretary of the GPF.”

The GPF said it looks after the welfare and efficiency of its’ members and is looking forward to working with senior management within the RGP and is grateful that its suggestions are being taken onboard.

“Even before the survey results were published, we had an assurance from the Commissioner of Police that any issues highlighted in this years’ survey would be addressed immediately, a far cry from the response that we had received in relation to our previous surveys,” a GPF spokesman said.

“This survey is now the third survey that we have conducted in as many years. We feel that it is important to gauge how our members feel and consider this is a suitable platform for officers to express their feelings on issues relating to their employment.”

“We look forward to addressing all issues raised by our members with senior management.”

 

Commissioner vows to continue working with GPF

Richard Ullger, the Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, said he has worked with the Gibraltar Police Federation in recent months in order to “improve management and leadership processes” within the force.

While welcoming the results of the latest survey, a spokesman for the RGP said it remains “disappointed with many of the statistics contained within it.”

However, it notes that, in the GPF’s words, the results of this year’s survey are slightly more positive than in the two previous years.

During this time, a new Ethics Committee has been introduced and anti-bullying campaigners, Dignity at Work Now, have been invited to give presentations to the RGP officers.

The RGP has recently introduced a new Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Strategy as well as a Wellbeing Committee and Wellbeing Champions.

Mr Ullger said the new leadership training courses have been really well-received by everyone who attended and further sessions have been scheduled for March.

“I think all these new initiatives demonstrate the direction in which I wish the RGP to go,” Mr Ullger said.

“I look forward to the day on which all my officers look forward to coming to work and do a job where they derive real satisfaction and a sense of serving their community.”

 

 

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