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Protest over wage talks so Cops stay off job
With the murder toll yesterday at 53, hundreds of police officers in North, Central and East stayed away from their jobs dissatisfied at wage negotiations and the recent comments by Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs. The lawmen had threatened to withhold their services last week protesting against a five per cent wage increase offer by Chief Personnel Officer Stephanie Lewis. In Port-of-Spain, both the high and magistrates’ courts were shutdown as many officers stayed away. That caused prisoners on remand to be turned away as there was no manpower to offer security for high-risk prisoners.
Stations in North and East also were said to be affected, a senior officer said. However, in San Fernando praises were heaped on officers who chose to ignore planned sickout action and instead reported for duty. A senior officer, who asked not to be identified, said the turnout of officers in south Trinidad was good. He said: “I think the call from the association was irresponsible and reckless and it did not have any effect on the officers in the southern districts. We are essential services. We cannot call for this kind of action, not even work-to-rule.”
According to a spokesman, who engaged in the industrial action, police officers also were offended by Gibbs’ statement last Thursday at a meeting with the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce. On that day, Gibbs reportedly told chamber members there was no need for an increase in the number of police officers but rather for existing officers to do their jobs. Gibbs, at the same function, also criticised police officers doing administrative duties, claiming he could replace them with civilians to get a better job done. “We find that statement was kind of offensive,” the source said.
But late yesterday, Gibbs issued a statement condemning the call by the Police Social and Welfare Association to its members to work to rule yesterday. Gibbs said: “The commissioner views this as unacceptable behaviour as the TTPS provides an essential service to the public, ensuring safety and security. “We expect officers to negotiate in good faith and continue to work towards an amicable resolution with the Chief Personnel Officer.” Gibbs said work continued in high risk areas and the service would maintain coverage to ensure the safety and security of law-abiding citizens.
Many officers assigned to Court and Process, St James Police Station, La Brea, Fort Chacon, Tobago, Vehicle Maintenance Company of T&T (VMCOTT) and other police stations reportedly stayed away from work since Sunday night. The association’s president, Sgt Anand Ramesar, said yesterday its membership told it to convince the CPO to offer a 40 per cent wage increase. The association recently held two meetings with the CPO on wage negotiations. Ramesar said: “Information has reached the executive that there was a mass intention through the Police Service to demonstrate an expression of disgust against the five per cent by the CPO.” Ramesar said the association was seeking alternative avenues to this course of action.
“The association would have explored an option of alternatives to its membership but we have recognised that we have failed to avert or persuade them to consider an alternative course of action,” he added. Ramesar said he hoped for swift intervention by the Government. “I consider that the Prime Minister (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) or the Minister of National Security (John Sandy) will have an urgent intervention and not treat this as a trivial matter,” he said. He challenged members of the public or stakeholders to look at the association’s Facebook page. “This will give them at an indication of expressions of police officers as a result of this ongoing issue,” Ramesar said. National Security Minister John Sandy was unavailable for comment but his junior minister Subhas Panday said: “I am sure there are industrial relations practices to deal with that issue. The Government carries a heavy burden in solving crime and there are limitations and they are in the way.
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