Police officers say no to Gov't wage offer
CAMERON... when we analyse the figures we see that it really puts some ranks in the officer corps at a disadvantage. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Members of the Police Officers Association (POA) are refusing to blink in their wage stand-off with the Government.

At an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon the POA's 320 members voted unanimously to reject the upgraded offer placed on the table by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service last Friday.

"The primary reason for that is that when we analyse the figures we see that it really puts some officers at a disadvantage. It puts some ranks in the officer corps at a disadvantage and therefore we cannot accept that," head of the POA, Senior Superintendent Wayne Cameron told the Jamaica Observer minutes after the meeting ended.

Cameron underscored that the POA is willing to continue discussions with the finance ministry as its members also want a speedy settlement.

On Monday Observer sources reported that in its response to the POA last Friday, the finance ministry addressed the contentious issues of service pay to police officers to be made pensionable; the reduction in the pay scale for assistant superintendents of police; and the anomalies between some pay scales.

"In addition, a revised salary scale proposal was appended to the message," said one source.

The source said the POA executives conducted their analysis of this revised proposal and found that some anomalies still exist.

"An overlap still exists between the salary scales for the officer ranks of assistant commissioner of police and deputy commissioner of police. In addition, there is a disparity between the rates across ranks. The disparity in percentage rates between ranks ranges from 2.5 per cent to negative 0.02," said the source who pointed out that at a meeting with officials of the finance ministry on February 1, it was proposed that there be a 10 per cent difference between ranks.

"At the February 1, 2023 meeting the POA had asked for the conversion rules to be revisited as the proposal has an eight-point salary scale while officers currently have a six-point salary scale. The proposed rules make no provision for officers at the first, second or third seniority levels. Additionally, it is observed that the revised proposed rules do not allow for equity as some officers have been placed at an advantage compared to others," said the source.

It was also noted that the POA is demanding that the salary scale for an assistant superintendent of police should be expanded to seven points, as previously requested, while the issues relating to promotion are being addressed by the JCF.

"The POA is aware of the exigencies related to completing this review and is seeking to have this matter concluded in earnest, in the best interest of its officers," said the source.

In opening the 2023/24 budget debate just over one week ago, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke urged public sector groups which had not yet signed the new compensation scheme to settle wage agreements.

At that time Clarke explained that, inclusive of amounts allocated in the first to fourth supplementary estimates, approximately $79.4 billion is provided for in 2022/23 to pay the incremental amounts for the first year of the restructured compensation system.

"If these amounts remain unpaid over the next few weeks, meeting the fiscal balance targets required under our legislation does not leave room to accommodate these amounts in the next fiscal year. We already have a full trillion dollars of expenditure programmed for next year, inclusive of the second-year payments under the public sector compensation restructuring," he pointed out.

"The space does not exist for the Government to pay both the first-year restructured salaries and the second-year restructured salaries at the same time," Clarke declared.

"As such, for fiscal sustainability we will have no choice but to pay these amounts over several years, commencing in financial year 2024/25," said Clarke.

Since then, two of the major public sector groups, the teachers and doctors, have signed the agreement, leaving the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) as the last major group to ink a deal.

The Jamaica Police Federation, which represents rank and file members of the JCF, and the United District Constables' Association are both expected to announce their reactions to the latest offer from the finance ministry today.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-Large halla@jamaicaobserver.com

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