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Police union stands firm on pay cut rejection

A refusal to suspend cuts in police health insurance by the Government sparked a rejection of a 10 per cent pay cut by officers, a source said at the weekend.

The police insider added that the service would have agreed to the pay cut if the reduction in health coverage had been delayed for six months.

The news came after another insider earlier last week said that the Bermuda Police Association had tried to negotiate a 4.5 per cent pay rise owed for three years before it agreed to the proposed pay cuts, forced by the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The new source said last Friday: “While it is true that we are still negotiating our pay and conditions of service that the Government settled with every other union two years ago, we have agreed everything but one item.

“That is despite Government losing in court with the prisons on the subject, an attempt to alter our health insurance and tying that into the whole pay deal and austerity measures.

“We asked Government to park that item for six months and we would immediately sign off on the pay agreement and the austerity measures, and they flat out refused.”

The insider highlighted that prison officers had won a Supreme Court battle in January against cuts to their health coverage. The source added that the Government “could have had austerity from us last week, but are refusing to budge on an item they have already lost in court with the prisons”.

The insider added: “The BPS is no stranger to shared public sacrifice, having taken furlough days for two years longer than every other union on the island during the last round of government austerity, but we are having a gun held to our head by the Government.”

The source accused the Government of dragging out negotiations “in bad faith” because of continued controversy over the use of pepper spray on protesters almost four years ago.

The insider said David Burt, the Premier, had criticised the service over the deployment of Captor spray on a crowd that had blocked the gates of the House of Assembly on December 2, 2016 in a demonstration against a public-private partnership with Canadian company Aecon to build a new airport terminal.

Mr Burt told the House of Assembly in July: “This was actions of violence which was perpetrated against Bermuda and there is an attempt to cover up the persons who are responsible.

“That is my view, and until this Parliament and or the Government — the people's representatives — are given information to the contrary, that will remain my view.”

However, the source said: “Three separate inquiries stated that, while mistakes were made, the police were justified in their actions.

“But to come after our healthcare in the middle of a global health crisis when we have been on the front lines while everyone else is sitting at home is ridiculous.”

The source added: “We have three officers infected with Covid, two of whom caught it on island.

“We are the only union members who are equipped with safety equipment due to our officers being regularly assaulted and placing themselves in harm's way, and for Government to use austerity and Covid as leverage to try and alter our healthcare is quite frankly the lowest of the low.

“We need the public to understand that it's Government who are derailing things, not us.”

The BPA's decision followed votes by the Fire Services Association and the Prison Officers Association this month to reject the pay cuts. The Bermuda Police Association and the Bermuda Police Service declined to comment.

The Ministry of National Security did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published August 31, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 31, 2020 at 8:24 am)

Police union stands firm on pay cut rejection

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