Some 5,600 police officers will be on the streets during Carnival Monday and Tuesday but after the reign of the "merry monarch" they might not report for duty if their wage negotiations are not settled.So said president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association Insp Anand Ramesar at a press conference yesterday at Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain.
The association's assurance that officers would be reporting for duty came after discussions with acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams.Describing the current status of salary negotiations as "very deplorable" Ramesar said the association received a counter proposal from the Chief Personnel Office last September and on Tuesday the association attempted to hold talks with the CPO.
"...But only to be told by the Chief Personnel Officer that she had no instructions to go ahead with the discussion which for us was an anomaly."We were willing to agree in some of the areas of the counter proposal and the CPO could not agree to what she had proposed."This in itself would have generated frustration, causing members to take matters into their own hands," Ramesar added.
He said the Police Service had made several positive strides and therefore it would have been "really foolish" for officers to "take a position" in relation to salary and terms and conditions to destroy the progress made."It is important that as we move forward we are able to maintain a right balance in terms of achieving our goals and at the same time support the continued effort of ensuring we are a success when it comes to policing," Ramesar added.
He said he did not accept the PM had no role to play in salary negotiations."We are asking the Prime Minister to give a clear instruction to the relevant personnel to get on with the business of salary negotiations in the Police Service. We are not asking her to usurp the role of the CPO but get the ball rolling," Ramesar said.
Williams said it was a known fact that officers have been going beyond the call and their demand for negotiations to be settled was justified.He said he was pleased that there would be no compromise regarding the safety of citizens during Carnival."The membership has gone out on a limb to give off way beyond what is required by way of their call of duty to ensure citizens are safe and to ensure visitors can enjoy Carnival.
"Regardless of the challenges we are facing as an organisation we can provide the level of safety."However, there is clear justification for the demands the officers are making in relation to a long, protracted negotiation. I empathise with them. I support their cause," Williams maintained.He added there have been unpredicted levels of policing activity.
Contacted yesterday National Security Minister Carl Alfonso said he met with the association's executive at the Besson Street Police Station and yesterday he reported to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar the details of the meeting."I reported back to the PM on my meeting with the association and I gave her my report. I subsequently called Mr Ramesar and the bottom line is they agreed that their members would be out for the Carnival. I spoke to the PM who is very concerned about the whole issue.
"She has not told me exactly what she would do but I strongly suspect that after Carnival everything would be settled and I know she would be speaking to the relevant authorities who may be the Finance Minister and CPO," Alfonso added.