Categorized | National News

Security Forces Decry Work Conditions

“The countdown is on,” according to officials of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) who in Wednesday reissued their warning to the government that a nationwide strike is on the way, this time angry members of the armed forces are backing them up.

TUC President Obie Ferguson joined members of the police and prison forces on Wednesday as they renewed their cries for better working conditions.

Botched promotions, hazardous working conditions, pensions and salaries are among a number of issues that have prompted members of the security forces to rally together and speak out in a bid to get the government’s attention.

“This is a workers agenda, we’re going to stand firm, we represent the doctors, nurses, we represent some very important grouping in our community we will do what we have to do to ensure that the Police Staff Association (PSA), The Bahamas Prison Officers Association (BPOA), all of the affiliates of the trade union congress be dealt with,” Mr. Ferguson said.

“These issues have been in the burner for years, they take us for granted but I can say unequivocally that the countdown is on.”

During a press conference at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP), members of the country’s security forces expressed that they are at their wits end, having exhausted all efforts to negotiate with the government.

PSA President Dwight Smith renewed calls for salary increases for police officers, he said that officers have died in the line of duty and countless others continue to risk their lives daily, yet they continue to receive a slap in the face from the government.

“We are still having police officers in this day and time making $1,500 a month, when I joined the job some 25 years ago as a recruit I was getting $1,000 so you do the math on that,” he said.

“They will not tell you that some of them of got discouraged and have resigned out of the police force because of that, they wouldn’t tell you that but that’s what is actually happening. We have officers around us now who are on pension and not receiving gratuity, they have already done the work, they’ve spent 25 years some of them 35 years and have not received a gratuity so we are hurting as bad as anyone else.”

He added that officers are unable to take on the additional financial burden of working 12 hour shifts with no compensation, coupled with the pending introduction of Value Added Tax and recent rise in National Insurance Board (NIB) payments.

BPOA President Gregory Archer insisted that prison officers are tired of working in conditions where they are exposed to skin infections like scabies and infectious diseases like Tuberculosis within a prison population that continues to grow.

He added that a prison officer is currently been treated for the disease.

“We know that the minister spoke and he said that there is no known case of Tuberculosis in HMP but the association begs to differ, we have officers that go downtown every day, wearing masks, watching inmates on chest wards so to say it’s not so, we beg to differ,” he said.

“We have many persons in prison with rash all over their bodies and the medication that is given to them is a known medication for the treatment of scabies. We’ve had several officers come to the office and brought their documentation from the doctor confirming that they have scabies so we can assure that our officers have caught scabies in the line of duty.”

He added that despite the 10 year fight for hazardous pay, prison officers have not been granted hazardous pay although civilian staff at the prison receives $200 in hazard pay.

Mr. Archer said the government’s ‘open door policy’ has not been granted to prison officers as their cries continue to be ignored.

The officers are backed by the Bahamas National Citizen Coalition (BNCC) and the TUC.

Mr. Ferguson remained tight lipped on a date for the nation-wide strike.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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