Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has referred to the reported sickout by rank and file members of the police over the holidays, as “industrial action”.
In a tweet on the weekend, Mrs. Malahoo Forte asked members of the public to share their views on what should be done to members of the JCF who’ve taken industrial action.
The Attorney General’s choice of the term is controversial because police are prohibited under the law from taking industrial action.
The Labour and Industrial Relations Act bars industrial action by any group that would be prejudicial to the national interest.
Also covered under this category are health workers, firefighters and workers in the water and electricity industries.
Speaking on Nationwide This Morning last week, General Secretary of the Police Federation, Sergeant Cecil McCalla, refused to answer questions on the reported sick out because of the legal implications.
The law defines “industrial action” as any lock out or strike, or any course of conduct in furtherance of an industrial dispute, by one or more employers or groups of workers, with the intent of preventing or reducing the production of goods or the provision of services.
There’ve been reports that as many as 3,000 police have called in sick since Saturday.
Efforts by our news center today to get an official update from the Police High Command have been futile.
In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Police Commissioner George Quallo, admitted their numbers were low but said the police are committed to ensuring the public’s safety this festive season.
He said they recognise the apprehension amongst the public, but said police would be along the roads, shopping centers, village squares and attend to all calls for service.
On Saturday, National Security Minister Robert Montague ordered that 200 prisoners being held in police lockups be moved to the Horizon Adult Remand Center, because there weren’t enough police available to secure the lockups.
Mrs. Malahoo Forte’s tweet asking what should be done to members of the JCF who take industrial action received 134 responses on the social media site.
One response came from PNP MP for Southwest St. Andrew, Dr. Angela Brown Burke, who replied that the government should give the police a decent wage, and that Prime Minister Andrew Holness should meet with the Police Federation.
Others suggested that pay be deducted for the time off.
Some Twitter users also asked whether it was appropriate for the Attorney General to solicit opinions on the matter on the social media site. In a subsequent tweet, Mrs. Malahoo Forte clarified that she was not seeking legal advice, just opinions.
Calls by Nationwide News to Mrs. Malahoo Forte today went unanswered. The government has offered the police a 6-percent increase over two years.
However, the Police Federation has rejected this.