Police union calls for parity in negotiations
Police officers claimed yesterday that the Government had “repeatedly moved the goalposts” in its cost-cutting negotiations with their representative body.
Inspector Emmerson Carrington, the chairman of the Bermuda Police Association, defended the service from “negative perceptions” among the public and said the group supported the belt-tightening exercise forced by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Carrington added the service recognised the hit taken by government coffers and the work done to preserve jobs.
He said: “We also applaud the Government for its management of the pandemic that has so far resulted in minimal impact to the island.”
But Mr Carrington accused the Government of changing its stance “whenever it appears that we are close to an agreement”.
He said: “Our entitlement to free medical advice and treatment is enshrined in our conditions of service orders, and it is unreasonable for Government to demand that we relinquish that right in order for us to receive the same salary increases and retroactive pay that have been already given to all other unions and associations without attaching any conditions.”
Mr Carrington added that other public services had been granted pay increases, but the police had not had a raise in pay since 2012.
But Mr Carrington said the BPA had not rejected cuts out of hand.
He insisted: “The BPA remains open and committed to finding an amicable solution with Government that is reasonable to all parties and in the best interests of Bermuda.”
He was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, this week said he felt “profound disappointment” after the Prison Officers Association and the Fire Services Association rejected proposed cuts designed to ease pressure on the public purse in the wake of the pandemic.
Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “The BPA has been advised of the next steps required to address the GEHI matter and conclude negotiations, as set out in the Police Act 1974. As the salary uplift item has been agreed, officers can expect to receive the uplift at the conclusion of that process.”
He added: “I am encouraged by the BPA's public statement of support for the austerity measures and look forward to a positive outcome. The BPA decision on this matter is now past due.”
Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, revealed in May that loss of government revenue coupled with extra debt to deal with the impact of Covid-19 would require concessions from the public sector.
Mr Dickinson in June estimated unbudgeted expenditure of between $80 and $90 million to deal with the pandemic.
Public-sector unions were asked to consider a proposal for a 10 per cent pay cut for one year, but with a freeze on contributions to social insurance and the Superannuation Pension Fund to maintain income levels.
The Bermuda Industrial Union, the Bermuda Public Services Union and the Bermuda Union of Teachers have agreed to the proposals.