By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 23, 2011
Jack Warner is the last person I thought would play the race card but then as my mother says, “You never know.” Here is Kamla and the PP getting their licks because they don’t know their ears from their navels but all Jack could say when workers use the democratic tools to protect their interests is they are targeting Kamla because she is an “East Indian woman.” It is strange that Kamla’s East Indianness never came up when she was running for the election nor, for that matter, was her gender seen in a negative light. In fact her being a Hindu woman seemed an asset given the place that women hold in the hierarchical structure of Hinduism.
But sometimes when things do not work out people say silly things. Here is Jack expostulating about the contemporary scene in T&T: “They [I am not too sure who “they” are] tend to forget so quickly that for eight years, nobody could have quacked in this country. They tend to forget that so quickly that for eight years, no police ever received an increase. They tend to forget so quickly that for eight years, police, prison officers, PSA did not say boo.” Now he says, “Everybody want to say, ‘Give me, give me,’ and nobody want to say ‘Here.'”
Reading Jack one would have thought that this was the first time the police had ever protested to defend their interest although the PM may have felt embarrassed by their action. In 1986, the Police marched around the Red House. In 2006, their marches almost shut down the country. There is one thing characterizes the police action: They know their power and are not afraid to use it to challenge whatever regime is in power.
What makes Jack’s claim so nonsensical is that the PP cannot even conduct a simple wage negotiation. Where any serious administrator would have been ashamed to say that they are unable to reach an agreement with one of the most sensitive services in the country, they prefer to chastise them. In fact, the PM takes the opportunity to continue her posturing in the belief that all she has to do to be successful is to talk and talk and talk.
Hence her only contribution to the debate was to pontificate as follows: “Those members of the Police Service who may believe that an abandonment of their duty to conduct and essential service such as the protection of our citizens, will find favour neither with the public or the government as a negotiation tactic, can expect quite the opposite.”
It is also difficult to reconcile the PM’s statement with that of her chief lieutenant when he concludes the police have not had an increase in eight years. Under the circumstances, isn’t it criminal to offer these officers a five percent increment over the next three years especially when one takes into consideration that between 2002 and 2010, the average annual inflation rate was 7.7 per cent. This means that one hundred dollars in 2002 is now worth $56; one hundred dollars in 2006 is now worth $70. Compared with 2002 and 2006 the police lost about $45 and $30 respectively on their wages if one were to take Jack’s incorrect statistic which makes the police posture more understandable.
Fortunately this is not the case. Every three years there is an industrial agreement between the police (through the Police Social and Welfare Association) and the Chief Personnel Officer that sets their terms and conditions. In 2007 the police said more than “boo” and received a 40 per cent increment for the period 2004-07. It is something that Jack deliberately forgets or prefers not to remember.
However, in this situation the real culprit is inflation and its persistent rise above the income gains of workers. This saps into workers livelihoods and send them on a rewinding spiral. Only last month, the Central Bank noted that the inflation rates (on foodstuffs, etc.,) went up by 13 per cent which means that the buying power of the segment of the work force is lagging again. In real terms, this might mean that in terms of real wages the police are not likely to be better off in 2011 than they were in 2007 even though they receive a 13 per cent increment for the period under negation. It simple has nothing to do with Kamla’s race, gender or religion.
Add to this, that the government plans to disband SAUTT whose members are rewarded with an additional $5,000 per month for their efforts. When one considers that this elite force took pride in their job one would have thought that the PP government would have been doing their best to enhance their readiness and professionalism. Instead, Kamla and her lieutenants prefer to discredit their efforts and declare their efforts worthless and unnecessary.
Such actions only add fury the policemen’s discontent. We all know that money is not the only incentives to those who protect and serve our people no matter how inefficient and indifferent some them may be at times. Pride in their jobs always adds to their performances. In order to do their best these police officers must believe that the powers that be see their services as essential, necessary and worthy of the best incentives.
It makes no sense to say the government has no money. It all comes down to it wishes to spend the people’s money and the priorities it develop? Do you want to enhance the public’s welfare or do you want to build a maco stadium?
It is also important to respect the bargaining process. You do not march into on-going negotiations and say “this is all you would get” after you selected a negotiator. Such outbursts suggest you are not negotiating in good faith.
Today, everyone “is big man and woman.” Respecting our personhood; process; and the evidence of history are always the better guide to conducting the people’s business whether you are a Christian or a Muslim; or a woman who happens to be Hindu.
The country has already made its verdict about how it feels about a Hindu woman. We have elected her to the highest office in the land. Anything to the contrary is an insult to the country. Jack should apologize to the country for his mischaracterization of the police’s motive. Anything less is unworthy of him.