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[Trinidad] ‘Blue’ Flu attacks security forces

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[Trinidad] ‘Blue’ Flu attacks security forces

Unread post by bimjim » Tue Mar 10, 2015

http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-03- ... fire-again

[Trinidad] ‘Blue’ Flu attacks security forces: CPO under fire again
Camille Clarke
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hundreds of officers under the branch of National Security yesterday made good on threats and stayed away from duty. Officers from the Fire, Prisons and Police Services called in “sick” from Sunday night, in a show of force over their dissatisfaction with salary negotiations under CPO Stephanie Lewis. The officers went ahead with the sickout action, which was nicknamed the “Blue Flu,” although it is against the law for members of the protective service to “strike” under the Industrial Relations Act.

Things could get worse today after the Police and Social Welfare body said it was no longer prepared to talk with her after she refused to budge from her previous offer. From early yesterday, it was the fire-fighters who showed they meant business on their threat to stay away when their action affected operation at the Piarco International Airport.

Two officers and one fire-fighter reported for duty there. This had the potential to shut down operations at the airport, since flights would have had to be diverted to Barbados if there was no mandatory fire response team on the ground in case of emergency. In the end though, the fire-fighters who showed up were able to call on members of the engineering department, administration and some colleagues who were on an aerodrome course at the station as backup.

Supplementary staff from the Auxiliary Fire United were also called out to man various other fire stations across the country. In a phone interview yesterday, president of the Fire Service Association Leo Ramkissoon said approximately 220 fire-fighters stayed away from work yesterday. “Literally hundreds stayed away and it would not be less than 10 fire fighters and officers per shift. So altogether its around 220 fire fighters that stayed away,” he said.

“It is a major concern, officers have stayed away and I fear what the next 36 hours are going to look like.” Ramkissoon also condemned the decision to use officers who were on the training course in Piarco as back-up. “They are using the officers from the course and they are not trained to operate the vehicles and equipment,” he said, adding the station would not have been operational if an emergency had occurred at the airport.

He said no officers showed up at the Savonetta Fire Station for duty and fire personnel who were visiting from Tobago for a fire prevention course were used to man the vehicles. “They have no training to operate the Hazmat vehicles and on top of that they were not provided with any meals at all,” he said.

Arrivals and departures at the Piarco International Airport were not affected by the fire-fighters’ sickout, the airport’s duty manager Abidh Emamalie told the T&T Guardian.

“There has been no changes to schedule and I can’t comment on what they are doing,” he said. An Airport Authority security member confirmed that if there was a full shutdown at the fire station flights would have had to be rerouted to Barbados or Grenada.

Rest and reflection

President of the Police and Social Welfare body Insp Anand Ramesar said between 50 and 90 per cent of his members stayed away from duty yesterday. “I have done my enquiries and there is evidence that the officers stayed home to rest and reflect. As the leader of the association, I call upon my membership to stay within the parameters of the law,” Ramesar said. T&T Guardian checks revealed only three officers showed up for duty at one stations in western Trinidad, while five officers did not report at the Piarco Police Station.

Ramesar said there will be a general council meeting today to “evaluate the salary negotiations and move forward.” “The membership is adamant that they will reflect until the CPO moves to a reasonable offer as it relates to salary negotiations,” he said, adding yesterday’s high percentage of absenteeism was at a critical level and could continue today. “I remain worrisome and committed to meet with stakeholders to avoid this situation. I am calling upon them to intervene,” he said.

Slow down at prisons

President of the Prisons Officers Association Ceron Richards also confirmed that hundreds of officers failed to report for duty at the nation’s prisons. Noting that many of them took legitimate sick leave, he said this situation would likely increase today. “A significant amount of officers did not report for duty this morning. At Maximum Security Prison over 100 officers and Port-of-Spain, Remand and the Youth Training Facility.

“It has amounted to a drastic slow down and (the service) came to a grinding halt. This includes court, visits, all operations have been slowed down drastically.” Richards said issues such as the lack of implementation of health and safety concerns have been compounded by the slow negotiation process.

TTPS: No unusual absenteeism recorded

Despite claims by the Police Social and Welfare Association that a planned sick-out by its members was successful, the Police Service yesterday claimed there was minimal absenteeism. In a media release, head of the TTPS corporate communication Ellen Lewis said there was no “unusual absenteeism recorded” amongst officers attached to the various police stations. She said there was one major disruption at the Roxborough Police Station, but the overnight shift remained on duty to make up for the absenteeism.

“There had been a concern that as a result of protracted salary negotiations for members of the protective services, including police officers, that this situation may have negatively impacted the normal turnout of officers for duty today, however, this has not been the case; and in this regard, the TTPS wishes to thank the Police Social and Welfare Association and its officers for remaining committed and true to the oath to protect and serve notwithstanding the unresolved salary issues,” Lewis said.

Today the officers plan to continue their protest action and have called for a meeting with the Prime Minister. A media release from the Ministry of National Security yesterday also said contingency plans were put in place to mitigate against the impact of the absence of fire-fighters who took sick-out action.

“Non-operational personnel, who are all trained in fire-fighting, were assigned to manage stations throughout the country to ensure service to the nation is not adversely affected. The situation is being closely monitored and all efforts are directed to the provision of full fire and life safety coverage to the general public.” The release said deputy Fire Chief Roosevelt Bruce is encouraging members to “let good sense prevail for the greater good of the nation” as wage negotiations continue.

What Industrial Relations Act says

• Under the Industrial Relations Act, if any member of the executive of the association organises and/or approves sick-out and/or protest action, that member could be jailed for 12 months. Chapter 88:01 Section 68 of the same Act states that should a police officer participate in any sick-out action, that officer is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $1,000 and to imprisonment for six months.

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