WE BELIEVE a strong case can be made for the police in their current wage negotiations to be given special treatment, given the circumstances in which they are working and their notoriously paltry salaries.
They are prohibited by law from joining trade unions. As such it would be invidious to try to bind them to commitments made by unions on behalf of other employees in the public sector.
But members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are prohibited under Section 69 of the Constabulary Force Act from withholding their services. So yesterday's sick-out industrial action should be seen for what it is another example of the indiscipline that is often manifested within its ranks, and a crass attempt to force the hands of the Government. Their protest is in breach of the law which they have sworn to uphold.
By their action, the protesters seem determined to overplay their hand in riding public sympathy for the challenging work they have to do.
Coming in the wake of last week's blockade of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Omar Davies, at National Heroes Circle, yesterday's protest casts a dark shadow over the police's own commitment to the rule of law. Their action cannot be sanctioned or excused under any guise whatsoever.
The JCF, like any other public sector group, is expected to press hard in their negotiations with the Government to obtain as much by way of remuneration and allowances as possible.
But the parties must be prepared to hammer out their positions at the bargaining table without strong-arm tactics, threats or the kinds of action that leave the society even more vulnerable to the criminal elements.
We note, too, another hasty involvement of the Prime Minister as arbitrator in a wage dispute apparently without all the established conciliatory channels being exhausted. Recently it was Air Jamaica's imbroglio with its pilots and now Mr. Patterson has got involved with the police. The Prime Minister's intervention should only be warranted in situations of real national crisis. Is he also going to make himself available to the Jamaica Teachers' Association, the Nurses Association of Jamaica, medical technologists, Junior Doctors etc? Where will it stop?
Parties to wage negotiations should make use of available channels for arbitrating industrial disputes without the spectacle of the Prime Minister having to preside over each. In the instant case, the JCF and its negotiators should cut the grandstanding and seek to be more creative in their discussions.
THE OPINIONS ON THIS PAGE, EXCEPT FOR THE ABOVE, DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE GLEANER.