Police fear ill feelings’ after talks stall
“Demoralised” police were considering their options last night after a further delay in negotiations with the Government on pay and conditions, their representative body said.
Sergeant Andrew Harewood, the chairman of the Bermuda Police Association, said officers feared that the Government’s refusal to honour a partial agreement struck in May was linked to residual ill will from the clash between police and demonstrators outside Parliament in December 2016 led to protesters being pepper-sprayed.
He was speaking after he warned on Monday that negotiations were at risk of breaking down.
Mr Harewood said the incident, in which officers were assaulted and pepper spray was used on members of the public, might have caused “the Government’s ill feelings towards the Bermuda Police Service”.
He said that the police service were still criticised over the confrontation with protesters, who were angry about the public-private partnership deal to redevelop the airport.
He said: “That’s all we hear about in the papers and public statements. It’s unprofessional for the Government to be bashing the police for no apparent reason.”
Talks have been held over the past 18 months through the independent Public Sector Negotiation Team on terms of employment for police.
Other problems still to be settled include Government Employee Health Insurance, and legal coverage for police officers.
Mr Harewood said there had been progress in talks in the wake of an emergency meeting held by the BPA in April.
He insisted that the partial agreement later reached with the PSNT was legally binding and that it was “bad faith” that the Government had refused to accept it.
Mr Harewood added: “Part of the issue is that we do not have a union where we can go on strike. We feel that Government tries to take advantage of police.”
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said yesterday that the police were of “value”.
However, he added: “All outstanding contractual matters, including salary and contractual negotiations, fall outside of my remit and come under the minister with responsibility for labour.
“Outstanding matters are with the Public Sector Negotiating Team and are still being negotiated.”
Mr Harewood said the BPA hoped to hold a general meeting next week to discuss its options.
He said: “The members are not happy. This is not a job; it’s a duty and we need a high morale to do our job.
“What causes a police officer to stand in front of a person and take a bullet so that person can live?
“It’s about morale and a sense of duty. When you take that from officers, it makes the job dangerous for them and for the public.”
Mr Harewood said if talks did break down the negotiations could be referred to the Department of Workforce Development for “settlement by conciliation”.
He added: “That process takes 14 days. If not, then the matter goes to arbitration.”
Lovitta Foggo, the labour minister, did not respond to a request for comment.
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