I am sure that many of us will have read that 83% of Rome’s police force phoned in sick on New Year’s Eve. Around 1000 were scheduled to attend work but only 170 or so did, a shocking figure.
But now it appears that partly in protest of how they have been vilified for their lack of work ethic and integrity on New Year’s Eve, those very same police, along with their colleagues throughout Italy have now called a strike for the 12th of Feb. Not a day to be in Italy I suggest!
But what I wanted to write about (with my usual ‘HR hat’ on) was how groups of employees united by frustration, anger or simply childish peevishness, are able to convince themselves that their protest action is appropriate, when it clearly is anything but. In Europe it is not as though we live in an environment with no employment rights and no rights to unionisation and along with that most of us (although our own UK police force do not as it happens) have the right to strike. There are legal channels to pursue for employment issues. And I would usually expect a Police Force to be aware of such legal channels.
But how inappropriate to consider it appropriate to defraud their own organisation by saying they are sick when in fact they are simply protesting (on a night when probably they want to go out and have fun). It’s not really an adult protest if you lie about your health, claim sick pay and leave everyone else to sort out the mess. That’s the behaviour of kids who haven’t yet learned responsibility.
It would be bad enough if it was any other workforce, but when a police force shows so little integrity, then what example do they set?
One newspaper report said “The local officers deny they were being lazy and say they failed to show up due to a wider dispute over pay and conditions.” They may well have a dispute over pay and conditions, but that does not permit dishonest behaviour. If those same police stopped a driver who has had a row at home, then gone out drinking to drown their sorrows, their drink driving is not condoned in law, whatever the excuse given.
In HR terms, what was quoted in the media is a clear group wide admission of dishonesty and specifically, an admission of pulling a sickie and claiming sick pay. In my book that is misconduct and in a private sector company (and many public sector organisations) would likely result in a written warning, final warning or in some companies that have zero tolerance to fraud, dismissal.
I am though dismayed to read that just 30 are undergoing disciplinary action and that is because they failed to provide any excuse. Surely those who dishonestly claimed sick pay are those who should be pursued first and pursued more rigorously?
Next time we hear about the police seeking to uphold the law in Italy, we might well think back on how they justified their own dishonest behaviour with the expectation that the world would back them.
Thoughts, comments, all welcomed of course.