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We’re being pushed to take action

Published: 
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Prison, fire officers still waiting for wage settlement
President of the Prison Officers Association Cerron Richards, left, address members of the media during a joint press conference with president of the Second Division Fire Services Association Leo Ramkissoon, right, at the Besson Street, Police Station, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZadded

The presidents of the Fire Service and Prison Officers Associations say the are being pushed by the Government to take drastic measures to get their houses as was promised to them after they settled their wage dispute last year.

Speaking at a joint press conference held at the Police Service and Social Welfare Association office located upstairs the old Besson Street Police Station, Leo Ramkissoon and Ceron Richards of the Fire and Prison Associations respectively, said they feel betrayed by three current and one former government minister. After settling their wage negotiations last year the associations agreed to 50 per cent of their arrears in cash and the remainder in bonds and housing allocations from the Housing Development Corporations.

Richards said many of his officers are living in high risk areas and the failure by the State to allocate them to safer environments is testament that the Government is not concerned with the security of those with the duty to protecting the country. To date the men said none of their members have been given a house. The men claimed that there was supposed to have been a committee, the Joint Services Housing Committee, established to deal with the housing issues for members of the protective services and since September last year, nothing close to resembling a committee have been set up.

The aggravating issue they said was that they did all they could and should do regarding their part in the committee materialising and now they are unable to access the current Housing Minister Randall Mitchell, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and Finance Minister Colm Imbert. They said since former housing Marlene Mc Donald they had meetings concerning the housing allocation and now, nothing. The men called on the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to get involved and “reign in” his ministers.

“We are fed up of being lied to and deceived. We are calling on the Prime Minister to bring a resolution to this matter… Cold is very easy to catch,” Richards said when asked if the associations were fuelled by the stand off between Petrotrin workers and the Government over the 2014 to 2016 wage negotiations.

Ramkissoon said the allocation of State housing was agreed to in 2008 by Cabinet and 10 per cent of all houses were to be given to the protective services. He said his members have received less than one per cent of that since then. He added that there is now a “broken covenant” between the Government and the associations.

Richards added: “The Government is pushing us and begging us to walk off the job. They are provoking us, our backs are against the wall. We will have to consult with our members to see how long we will allow the Government to treat with our concerns but some of our members may act on their own and are likely to walk off the job as they did when Andy Rogers was killed (in 2013).”

Although the press conference was held at the police station, police was not represented. When contacted yesterday the president of the police association, Insp Michael Seales, said he had another engagement but assured he will raise the issues of his organisation as it relates to the supposed reneging of housing allocations as part of the settled wage negations for 2011 to 2013.