Monday 6 April, 2020

Crawford bats for cops’ welfare on overtime state of emergency duties

Senator Damion Crawford

Senator Damion Crawford

Opposition Senator, Damion Crawford, has accused the Government of “having no conscience” while making a case for members  of the police force involved in two states of emergency to be adequately compensated for their overtime hours.

According to Crawford, policemen and women are now working 16-hour days because of the emergency measures.

The former Member of Parliament (MP) who is known for colourful and controversial remarks, made the charge on Friday as the Senate debated and passed a resolution to extend the state of emergency in St James for another three months, until November 1.

Crawford suggested that the Government knew that it intended to have the emergency measure remaining in place for several months. It was first imposed in St James on January 18 following a bloody 2017, which saw 335 people being killed in the parish, and more than 1,640 island-wide. Another state of emergency has been in effect in the St Catherine North Police Division since March 18.

“If the Government knew in their intent that they wanted to have a state of emergency now for six months or seven months, then there was due consideration  to be made for the security forces, due consideration had to be made for their remuneration for the effort that has been demanded of the police force,” Crawford told his fellow senators.

“You have policemen and women who in 2010 agreed to a 40-hour work week, eight hours a day for five days, now working 16 hours a day for six days.  And there is no preparation (or) consideration for any remuneration in an effort that is not 30 days (old), but an effort that seems to (be going) 30 months, because we have consistently come to (Parliament) to say let’s do this again and again…,” he indicated.

A police officer among military personnel on duty at a state of emergency checkpoint in St James. The police and military are jointly executing the state of emergency measures in two police divisions.

“Why is it then that we don’t have, even for the period of the state of emergency, a consideration of overtime pay for the police?” he asked.

The Opposition senator, in highlighting the tough conditions under which the police are working, said one policeman told him that he was given breakfast of dumplings “and sausage directly from the can”.

Crawford took a direct swipe at Government Senator, Pearnel Charles Jr, who, in piloting the resolution that sought the latest extension of the emergency measure in St James, highlighted the successes of the initiative while stating that more time was needed to secure the gains that have been made.

“If you think that the state of emergency is working and because it’s working you would like to extend it, you must say what are the assets that I am going to use and what’s the remuneration necessary for the asset,” Crawford asserted.

He argued that if he were to use his car as a taxi, then “the servicing (will) have to be different than when I’m using it for my personal (requirements)”.

Senator Crawford acknowledged that there is ongoing wage talks between the Government and the Police Federation. In that regard, he said consideration should be given to paying overtime in the interim.

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