THE Public Service Association of NSW (PSA) has warned that it was "gravely concerned" with recent developments at the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) Aviation Support Command (POLAIR).
Among other cultural and safety issues currently being addressed at POLAIR, the PSA has been made aware of a push towards the privatisation of pilot positions.
This initiative by NSWPF and POLAIR chief pilot Salli-Ann Ward could risk the lives of the community and police, according to the PSA, which represents POLAIR pilots.
PSA members were advised on Friday, March 10, that six vacant positions -- made up of four rotary aircraft and two fixed-wing -- would be outsourced and filled by contracted staff, privatising these positions which would usually be held by fully trained and qualified special constables.
“Contract pilots lack the experience and specialised training that is provided to Special Constable pilots who up until now have operated NSWPF aircraft,” PSA general secretary, Stewart Little said.
“Special constables are trained to use weapons and to use equipment like bullet proof vests. Without this training and experience, the PSA holds serious concerns that the utilisation of contract piloting staff will lead to a serious incident or accident.
“The circumstances around this initiative are also troubling, there has been no consultation with the PSA, with staff only being notified last Friday about the commencement of contract pilots," Mr Little said.
“There has been no information in relation to whether there was a fit and proper tender process conducted by the NSWPF in awarding the contract for pilot services.
“There is no information as to how this private company was able to secure these positions and provide services usually performed by members of the NSWPF.
“This lack of transparency or consultation is the norm for current POLAIR management.
“This is privatisation by stealth, it’s the pilots this week, next week it’ll be the engineers who maintain police aircraft," he said.
“These are full time public service roles, the public has an expectation that POLAIR pilots have their mind fully on the job not on moonlighting as skydiving pilots on weekends.
“The PSA position is firm – the government needs to reverse this appalling decision immediately.
“The PSA has sought a meeting with the Commissioner of Police to discuss this matter urgently,” Mr Little said.