If it was any other union, the Queensland Police Union would be being denounced from the rooftops by John Howard and Joe Hockey, no matter how “avuncular” and cuddly the world of workplace relations is now meant to be.

Part of the problem with the “don’t go back to a union dominated workplace” line from the government is that union militancy is very thin on the ground these days. Except, it would seem, when it comes to Queensland police.

The latest twist in the Mulrinji/Police Union saga has seen the Police Union take to the airwaves as well as threatening to take to the streets.

Two radio commercials are receiving heavy airplay in Queensland, and are now available for download from the Police Union’s websitewhich trumpets:

“We look forward to being able to get our message direct to you without editorial manipulation by some of the major media outlets in this state who monopolise particular mediums.”

The message in question is delivered through some very slick ads, which cleverly pick up on community concerns about industrial relations and job security. But they also play on the fear of crime.

The latest ad asks citizens whether they want their “local police officers feeling paralysed to respond because of the fear of unjust claims against them”?

The Police Union, after apparently looking at importing reinforcements from interstate for its planned march on Parliament, has “suspended” its protest as Beattie scrambled yesterday to meet its demands.

The Union is spending some serious money on its campaign. It’s obviously as much targeted to police who are concerned about their salaries and working conditions as to the public. And it’s targeted to signing up new members for the Union, which quite a large minority of police feel has been more concerned with politics than basic industrial aims.

Peter Beattie is right to think that the Union’s actions have a lot to do with upcoming enterprise bargaining negotiations. The latest spin in the Union’s PR campaign has shifted the issue from justice to conditions of employment. The real target of the march might be the Treasury coffers.

Peter Fray

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