Changes to police call centre pay and conditions “threaten the stability and morale” of staff, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has warned.
Proposed changes, including reducing allowances for night shifts and new pay scales, could result in call centre staff losing thousands of pounds from their salary, it is claimed.
Mr Rennie has now written to the chairman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the Justice Secretary and the chief constable of Police Scotland to express his concerns.
In the letter, he mentioned the inquiry into the fatal M9 crash in 2015 when police failed to respond for three days after it was first reported, which has still not happened.
“It would therefore be ill-advised to further threaten the stability and morale of the service centres by dramatically reducing the shift allowance,” Mr Rennie warned, adding morale is “at rock bottom”.
He said: “Call centre staff have undergone considerable upheaval since the rushed centralisation of the service centres.
“These proposals will further threaten the stability and morale of staff.
“The deal on the table for call centre staff is a poor one and skilled staff may be lost to the service all together if the proposed changes go ahead.
“I hope that the Scottish Police Authority and the Government will negotiate for additional funds to enable an adequate deal to be agreed.”
A letter to police call centre staff giving details of the changes said the proposal needed to be “affordable and sustainable in future years” and acknowledged people “feel let down” after being placed at the bottom of new pay scales.
Unions are due to ballot members about the proposals and staff have been warned that if they are rejected a “recognition payment” – compensation for a delay in implementing new salaries – will be withdrawn.
Mr Rennie wrote of his disappointment at this threat and urged the SPA chairman to push for more funding from the Scottish Government.
Jude Helliker, director of people and development at Police Scotland said: “The staff pay and reward modernisation project will deliver common terms and conditions of employment for all staff, who are our most important asset.
“The project removes inequalities and anomalies in pay and conditions inherited from predecessor forces.
“The proposals represent a significant investment in the region of £23 million, with over 70% of staff receiving an increase in basic salary and/or shift reward.
“For those whose salary is to be reduced, the proposed employment package offers a two-year period of protection of pay and allowances.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Good progress has been made in the negotiations to harmonise police staff pay and conditions.
“We understand that the proposed employment package would directly benefit the majority of police staff and offers a two-year period of protection of pay and allowances for others. Having organisation-wide pay scales allowances and terms and conditions will deliver equity and fairness for police staff.
“The HMICS review of call handling in 2018 found that a number of improvements have been made and that overall performance remains strong.”