Police threaten to sue over 12-hour shifts
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Oct 12, 2013
After recently complaining that police are tired after working 12-hour shifts for weeks without an end in sight, Police Staff Association (PSA) Executive Chairman Dwight Smith yesterday threatened to take legal action if the organization doesn’t hear from government officials about compensation for officers in the next 14 days.
The PSA sent a letter to Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Perry Christie yesterday outlining the laws that dictate when government employees should receive overtime pay.
Smith said he is willing to give the Ministry of Finance two weeks to outline what compensation - whether monetary or in the form of vacation time – the government is willing to offer officers.
Smith noted that officers have worked the extra hours for a month with no additional pay.
He said the PSA feels “insulted” that the government has not come to the table to discuss police officers’ concerns
over compensation even after having communicated them to Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage.
“We’re going to do the work, but for God’s sake, treat us like human beings,” he said.
“Treat us like any other worker, treat us like that. We will do our best to keep our country safe but certainly we should be compensated for the work that we do and that is our cry.
“We are going to continue to push. We may have to take the matter before the courts because it’s hours worked. Maybe we have to do that.”
Smith said the PSA has taken private sector employers to court over compensation issues that came up as a result of private engagement, and he believes it can also take the government to court if need be.
He said the group wants a meeting with Christie, Nottage and Minister of Labour Shane Gibson to settle the compensation issue.
“The police watch our tourists; the police are keeping our place safe. If we are saying, ‘Please sit around the table.’ Man, tell me no. Come up front and tell me we are not going to compensate you,” Smith said.
“Tell me that. Don’t tell me that we are doing this for the good of the people.”
Smith also said he is “baffled” that the Bahamas Union of Teachers was able to meet with the prime minister and Gibson on Wednesday for an impromptu meeting to discuss concerns over salary.
He added that the PSA was shocked to find out how much money teachers make suggesting that police officers’ salaries are not comparable.
“We are already having an issue,” he said. “That’s why I said we sent a proposal now talking about salaries. We are saying now we don’t get paid sufficient.”
Police officers have not had salary increases in 11 years.
Smith also said doctors and lawyers have approached the PSA with concerns over police officers’ health because of the long shifts.
“Some officers are working five [days], some are working six [days]. At one point we went to a particular station and I didn’t see any days off for the police officers,” Smith said. “I got that call already that officers work a full seven. When you do that from one week to the next, that’s ridiculous.”
On Tuesday, Nottage said he is “not deaf” to the PSA’s calls for compensation.
However, Nottage did not say when or if police officers will be compensated for working longer hours.
He said any changes to the current crime strategy will be based on advice from Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade.