POLICE ON EDGE
Simmering anger within the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s officer ranks could lead to a head-on collision with the Government over the State’s failure to move the needle on negotiations for a better increase in on-call allowance.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Wayne Cameron, who chairs the Police Officers’ Association (POA), which represents gazetted officers from the rank of superintendent to commissioner, told the Jamaica Observer on Saturday that the Government has not responded since the association rejected an offer of a 15 per cent increase in the allowance last month.
As such, his colleagues, he said, were “restive”.
“December, festive season, no added money, the officers are not happy, and with good reason, because traditionally the practice is that when December comes around we would get a little money here or there. There’s no money, so they are rightfully restive,” SSP Cameron said.
The Sunday Observer had contacted Cameron after seeing his communication to POA members in which he said that the discussion around on-call allowance “is now at a troubling juncture”.
In that letter Cameron outlined that the offer of the 15 per cent increase across all ranks was made by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke in a telephone discussion early last month.
He said that the POA executive discussed the offer but “flatly refused” it on the basis that it was “paltry”, given that the POA’s proposal is for the allowance to be increased to 40 per cent of basic salary.
“The minister promised he would return to us timely and that he’ll request of the commissioner of police and the minister of national security to sit in our next meeting,” Cameron said.
“Since then the POA has not gotten a new offer, neither a new meeting date. This is the case despite several communiqué to Mr Wayne Jones, deputy financial secretary; the minister himself; and other members of the bargaining unit,” Cameron said in the note to the POA members.
Pointing out that service pay is now 20 per cent of basic salary, while the on-call allowance is at an average of 8.5 per cent of basic salary, Cameron said the 15 per cent offer “is an insult to the officer corps as we’d be moving up by less than seven per cent”.
In his discussion with the Sunday Observer, Cameron explained that the salary increases granted under the Government’s compensation review in April this year resulted in an erosion of the on-call allowance from 20 per cent of basic salary to its current average 8.5 per cent.
“Before the compensation review it formed a substantial portion of an officer’s salary package, now it doesn’t,” he said. “We are saying to the Government, we need to fix this.”
He said that unlike cops in the junior ranks, police officers are not placed on an overtime system as they are regarded as always at work.
“When an officer is not at his desk, he is at home, the moment you take up the phone and call him he’s actually working. So the on-call allowance is for the extended hours and for the inconvenience placed on an officer, as a manager, because I could be doing my private thing when you call me, but I have to put that down to address the situation that I am now being called up on, either to clarify a situation, to give advice, or to give instructions,” he explained.
“So we need to get this [allowance] back up to where it was or above,” he told the Sunday Observer.
“We are saying that the fact that we do extended hours, added hours, and we can be called at any time, then the on-call allowance must be given attention. If we are working at the executive level, then we should be paid at the executive level,” he argued.
Cameron, in his note to the POA members, said that at the last heads of agreement meeting the slate of outstanding allowances should have been settled from June 30, 2023.
“This means that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service is not only in breach of our agreement but has been displaying little or no regard to this bargaining process,” he said.
“Also, given the fact that we are now in the middle of the festive season, officers have a legitimate expectation to see a difference in their salary package. I’ll just advise officers that the POA executive is contemplating its next move as the new week approaches. We’ll also advise as soon as a response is had,” he said.
Asked when the executive would next meet with POA members, Cameron didn’t give a date; however, he said if they do not get an answer soon, that meeting “is on the horizon”.