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Wilson: Guards better paid than police constables

BY RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 25, 2014    

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Sergeant Raymond Wilson, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, is bemoaning what he claims are the low salaries being paid by the Government to police constables.

Wilson brought the issue of salaries to the fore at the 71st Joint Conferences held at the Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa in Ocho Rios on May 21 and 22 and said on Thursday's second day that more must be done to address the issue of remuneration.

"The salary of our constables, believe it or not, is just a few cents higher than that of a security guard," Wilson stated.

Wilson said that for a 40-hour work week, a security guard is paid approximately $283.27 per hour, including laundry allowance. The constable on the other hand is paid $299.24 per hour for sometimes a 70-hour work week.

While security guards are paid overtime, Wilson said that it is not the same for police personnel.

He stated that security guards are paid time and-a-half for Saturdays and double time for public holidays and Sundays, which is not the case for police officers.

"Security guards in this country are better paid than our constables," he stated, adding that he was not disrespecting security guards but insisted that because police constables were working to protect the nation, they should be better paid.

He called on the Minister of National Security to lobby for the wage restraint to be lifted and for constables to be better paid.

While acknowledging that he is aware of the economic problems facing the country, Wilson said that the police are suffering.

"The wage freeze imposed by the Government is killing us, literally," he said.

He added that police personnel depend on promotions for salary increases. However, they were told recently that there are no vacancies.

The Police Federation chairman said that two proposals had been put forward to address the problem.

One is for expansion to take place so that more vacancies will be available for promotions, which he said would also address the police-to-citizen ratio.

The second proposal, Sergeant Wilson said, is for the reintroduction of a system which allows police constables, who have passed exams but cannot be promoted due to the lack of vacancies, to be afforded the salary of a corporal.

Wilson said that rank and file members of the JCF have not been given a salary increase since 2009 and that while the wage freeze has been imposed, the Jamaica dollar has moved from $80 to over $110 to one US dollar.

He pointed out that living expenses had increased significantly, leaving members of the security force in difficulty even to find lunch for work.

"There are many days when a policeman, having paid his transportation cost to work, having bought groceries, having paid utilities, comes to work and cannot find lunch," Wilson said.

While police personnel are in full support of the country's growth and development, the country, he said, must accept that the police perform a unique task.

According to him, research has shown policing to be the second riskiest job after coal mining, so it would be the most riskiest in Jamaica, as the country is not involved in coal mining.

"We must be sensitive to the unique task and we believe the police must be separated and treated with priority," he said.

Wilson said that he would love for a system similar to one that exists in London, England, which gives a special allowance to police officers working in the city, as it is more expensive living and working in the city than in the rural areas.

In spite of challenges, he said, law enforcers are however committed to the task.

"We are committed, we are loyal, we will not fail Jamaica even amidst our trials," Wilson assured.

In addition to the wage restraint, Wilson said that the federation is not pleased with the pension proposal. He described pensions now received by many as "atrocious". He added that if the proposal for pension is passed in its current form, then the members of the police force could see a reduction in benefits.

Wilson also pointed out that the present health plan that police personnel have is inadequate and has asked that it be improved.

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting has agreed to discuss the health plan with the federation.

In addressing the issue of pension, he said the pension reform has been pushed back to 2016 so there was still time for "fine-tuning". He acknowledged that the security forces must be given preferential treatment.

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