Fri | Jan 21, 2022

‘No pay, no work’

Disgruntled cops threaten to step up protest for payment of overtime due since 2008

Published:Friday | November 26, 2021 | 8:28 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Rank and file police officers stage a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston yesterday, calling for a settlement of a dispute with the Government over unpaid sums for overtime work.
Rank and file police officers stage a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston yesterday, calling for a settlement of a dispute with the Government over unpaid sums for overtime work.
Jamaica Police Federation Chairman Corporal Rohan James said that the officers have sacrificed enough and are demanding an end to the imbroglio.
Jamaica Police Federation Chairman Corporal Rohan James said that the officers have sacrificed enough and are demanding an end to the imbroglio.
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“Dem a pay thief and nuh want pay police!” were the words shouted repeatedly by a female cop at the entrance to the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston yesterday as hundreds of disgruntled police officers protested while awaiting news on their 40-hour workweek and overtime claim.

The Jamaica Police Federation had brought the suit against the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and the Ministry of National Security, complaining that the rank and file cops have been working more than 40 hours per week without being compensated since 2008.

Since the claim was filed on May 22, 2020, there have been discussions between lawyers from both sides.

The matter was not settled on Thursday, and the parties will return to court for a pretrial date on December 16.

Before going to the court on Thursday, the Police Federation penned a two-page open letter to National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang and Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, suggesting that if the matter is not satisfactorily settled soon, the quality of policing could be negatively impacted.

Corporal Rohan James, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, told The Gleaner yesterday that the officers will not be backing down in their fight for what is rightly due to them.

“The Government has yet again failed to resolve the issue that was before the court, and hence the date was determined for the parties to see if there is any likelihood of a settlement to be arrived at without the matter going to trial,” James said.

Cops reject six-year payment plan

Citing the impact inflation could have in reducing the value of the payment, the Police Federation has rejected the Government’s proposal to compensate the cops for overtime since 2019 – not since the 2008 date they have put forward – over the next six years.

It has calculated that 10 hours of overtime work in processing crime scenes, attending court and providing protection for government officials over 10 years had amounted to more than $1.5 billion.

“We have flatly rejected the offer because this is not something that we are negotiating on. It is whether or not the Government has time and is requesting time to compensate the members for work already done. We believe that we have sacrificed enough,” James said.

In an interview on Radio Jamaica 94 FM’s ‘Beyond The Headline’ last evening, Jacqueline Samuels Brown, QC, who is representing the police officers, lamented that despite at least three hearing dates since the claim was filed a year and a half ago, the Government was yet to put forward a favourable offer.

“It was anticipated that we would come to an agreement and that it would be announced to the court,” she said, noting that the offers have not been satisfactory. “ ... When we went to court today, we had to frankly reveal that to the court, and as a result a date for trial has been set.”

Police officers have been working in excess of 40 hours long before 2008, but that year was used as the starting point, because that is when the first of several heads of agreements was arrived at.

During a previous court hearing on September 23, the officers were promised that the Government would fast-track the process to pay the outstanding sums in time for Christmas. The protesting cops yesterday emphasised that their Christmas season would not be festive if they were not paid for work already done.

“We fed up! We fed up! We want ham fi Christmas, too! And if we nuh get it fi Christmas, please give us a reasonable offer so we can take care of our families. We have children going to school as well, just as every other government person, and we need our money. We fed up!” Detective Constable June Williams of the St Catherine North Division’s Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse said holding aloft a placard.

She then led the group in chanting, “We fed up! We want money that is owed to us! We want money! We fed up!”

The officers then started singing the carol Silent Night and when it began to rain, they switched to Showers of Blessing.

With the cops gathering in large groups of more than 50 people in front of the Supreme Court, the leaders of the Police Federation encouraged them to relocate to the waterfront, where there was more space for social distance to avoid breaching the Disaster Risk Management Act.

They continued singing following the relocation with occasional shouts of “No pay, no work!”

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com