Whose side is Raymond Wilson on?
When the chairman of the Police Federation, Sergeant Raymond Wilson, was appointed to the embattled board of the National Housing Trust last November amid the scandal over the Outameni purchase, a few persons may have snickered at what they saw as a decisive move by the Simpson Miller administration to control an important aspect of the wage negotiations with public-sector workers in 2015.
The People's National Party (PNP) admini-stration knows that in wage negotiations, it's important that you control the tone and tenor of what the bargaining units say through the media during that inevitable period when the talks become protracted and the offer on one side of the table does not match the demand set down on the other.
And this wily PNP administration, while bumbling and uncertain in government, is an expert in the art of politics. It knows that the best way to control the rhetoric is to shackle the lead messenger. And while some unfairly dismissed the appointment, simply because Sergeant Wilson is a policeman, as if police personnel do not represent some of the brightest minds in this country, others saw his appointment as a classic case of the PNP kissing and caressing a lover before leading them to bed, handcuffing them to the burglar bars at the bedroom window and asking them to wait while they pop down to the pharmacy to buy a pack of aromatic candles.
For persons who think this way, it's not a funny thought to imagine a police sergeant like Raymond Wilson, a man on whom rank and file members of the force are depending to put them first in these crucial wage nego-tiations, being fenced in by the Government through his acceptance of a seat on a state board. This, to them, represents the most public arrest of a policeman in Jamaica's recent history.
Sergeant Wilson has never struck me as anybody's puppet. Maybe it's because he's good at selling false impressions or because he really is nobody's puppet. But it would be wrong to believe he does not deserve to sit on the board of the NHT. People should know that beyond his tendency to be bellicose, Sergeant Wilson, who by now should have completed his law degree, is an intelligent man with the capacity to be an outstanding director of the NHT.
Over the past two weeks, Sergeant Wilson has at least been making the right noises about the protracted wage negotiations. In a press release on May 3, Sergeant Wilson chided the de facto public service minister, Horace Dalley, for using the kind of language that would only erode the trust and good faith on which the negotiations would be expected to proceed. Sergeant Wilson threatened the Government, giving it until the close of business on May 5 to indicate when the wage talks would resume. It appears the Government ignored the deadline, and it's funny that Sergeant Wilson has not carried through with the other part of his threat to convene an all-island meeting of delegates of the Police Federation if the ultimatum was ignored.
So how should we now view Sergeant Wilson? Do we see him as the shackled police union representative, comfortable in his plush seat at the long table in the meeting room of the NHT board? Do we see him as a man programmed to appear in public to be agitating for the police personnel he represents, even as he has already signed a backdoor agreement to get his constituents to accept whatever the Government's final offer is?
Or should we view him as a man willing to go overboard, pun intended, to press home the case for the Police Federation to be given an adequate wage increase? One thing's for sure, Horace Dalley will get a deal done. Notwithstanding his negotiating skills, Minister Dalley shares a strong comradeship with many of the right people in the right places at the helm of the various bargaining units.
Given the PNP's control over the wage negotiations, it may not be necessary for the real Sergeant Raymond Wilson to stand or sit. However, for the sake of his own integrity, it's vital that he shows his true self to the public.