A general meeting is planned within the next week for members of the Bermuda Police Association (BPA), now that there is partial agreement in place with “four outstanding proposals” still on the table in negotiations on “terms of employment” for police.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, Sergeant Andrew Harewood, BPA Chairman said that meeting, which is a direct result of the Government’s refusal to sign the partial agreement, will be held either this Wednesday or Thursday.
The four outstanding issues include the Government Employee Health Insurance (GEHI) and legal coverage for officers.
“It was agreed that these matters would be resolved after signing of the partial agreement,” he said.
While progress was made as a result of an emergency meeting held by the BPA in April, he noted that the partial agreement was legally binding and that it was “bad faith” that the Government had refused to accept it.
“Part of the issue is that we do not have a union where we can go on strike. We feel that Government tries to take advantage of police.”
Sgt Harewood warned last week that the negotiations were at risk of breaking down due to the Government’s refusal to honour the partial agreement struck in May, with the independent Public Sector Negotiation Team (PSNT).
The team is headed up by Judith-Hall Bean (Chairperson), Vincent Hollinsid and Orin Simmons.
“We have been negotiating in good faith with the independent PSNT, on behalf of the Government for the past eighteen (18) months,” said Sgt Harewood.
“Both teams have worked extremely hard, reaching a partial agreement on May 9, 2019.
“Despite official documentation from the Government stating that the PSNT had at the least, ostensible authority and at the most actual authority to negotiate and agree on items on behalf of Government, the Government is now refusing to honour the partial agreement.
“The refusal by Government to honour this partial agreement is a clear act of negotiating in bad faith and is unlawful under section 29 (a) (4) of the Police Act, 1974,” he said.
“The reality of the situation is that the members of the BPA are now becoming exasperated, with the real possibility of becoming demoralized.
“The members of the BPA are calling on the Honourable Premier of Bermuda to take control of this situation and ensure that the Government honour its obligations. We are eager to continue to negotiate in good faith.”
“We are aware that the Government has recently entered into partial agreements with other unions.
“We strongly question whether the Government’s unlawful actions are as a result of the events of the December 2nd, ,2016.
“We are concerned that negotiations may break down due to the Government’s ill feelings towards the Bermuda Police Service following these events.”
Sgt Harewood concluded: “We invite the Government to reveal their true motive for not wanting to sign the partial agreement.”
National Security Minister, Wayne Caines issued a statement on (August 6) saying the issues are out of his hands.
“All outstanding contractual matters, including salary and contractual negotiations, fall outside of my remit and come under the minister with responsibility for labour.,” he said.
“Outstanding matters are with the Public Sector Negotiating Team and are still being negotiated.”
To date, there has been no official comment by the Premier, David Burt, or Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour.
Moving forward, the BPA Chairman said if talks break down, the negotiations could be referred to the Department of Workforce Development for “settlement by conciliation”.
According to Sgt Harewood: “That process takes 14 days. If not, then the matter goes to arbitration.”
Overall, he said BPA members “are not happy”.
Sgt Harewood also released documents as “evidence to support our position on the authority of the PSNT to agree on behalf of Government”.
Those documents included:
- Invitation to Commence: Paragraph three (3) clearly give the PSNT the authority to agree on behalf of the Government. It is made clear that this letter, when read in conjunction with section 29 (a) (4) of the Police Act (quoted by the Hon. Minister), makes the agreement binding. It is for this reason that the Government’s action is unlawful
- Document 2: The Bermuda Union of Teachers in a public statement stated that they have entered into a partial agreement with Government.
- Document 3: In a ministerial statement, Hon. Minster Foggo claimed that the previous Government gave the PSNT no mandate to negotiate on its behave. She went on to state that the current Government has done so
- Document 4: The Bermuda Police Association (BPA) was asked to give an update on the status of negotiations between the Government of Bermuda and the BPA