NATIONAL Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has given his assurance that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) will be accorded the salaries they deserve as professionals, and that the Government will fix the ad hoc manner in which they have been compensated over the years.
“Government intends to, and it will be demonstrated when the minister of finance speaks [in the budget debate], treat the police in the professional manner in which they should be treated. The dispute [over pay] has emerged because successive governments have treated the police force with almost a level of disrespect in how they treat their salary – giving small bits and pieces of remuneration for some hours here, for some allowance there, and [to] different sections of the police force,” Chang told the House of Representatives Tuesday. He declined to comment directly on the issue of back pay, which is now the subject of a court case against the Government.
The national security minister was responding to an appeal from Opposition Leader Mark Golding for the dispute to be brought to rest. “The police force will be treated as a professional body, paid as a professional body, and paid for the work that they do. That's the commitment of this Government that it will be done, and done in this year. We will not be able to reverse 50 years of neglect and disrespect, but we will start the process, ” Dr Chang stated. Rank-and-file members of the JCF have been up in arms about wages owed from 2008. They have indicated, in an open letter to the Government, that they will forego overtime payments from 2008 to 2015, but are demanding an upfront lump-sum payment, and the remainder paid off within two years. The Government has offered to pay arrears from 2019, over six years. Meanwhile, Dr Chang argued that attrition in the JCF cannot be avoided. “It is a historical fact that over the years the training of police officers has never exceeded the attrition rate. The police force has an establishment of 14,000, a working group of just under 12,000 [and] there was never any training to ensure that you could compensate for the resignations, which is normal,” he said. Young people, he said, will join the force for steady employment, or to improve resumes, while advancing their education, then transition to the private sector. “Absolutely nothing is wrong with that. We would like to keep all of them, but no professional institutional body of over 10,000 can recruit and keep all the people they recruit, certainly not in the Government service at any point in time,” he said. As a remedy to the situation, the Government is in the process of expanding the police force by recruiting more personnel, Dr Chang noted. He said the COVID-19 crisis has delayed the training programme, but 1,250 recruits will complete their programme by March. Additionally, he promised that the crime-fighting capacity, and quality of the force will be bolstered with more resources, including infrastructure, fleet, and equipment.