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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK

World: Americas

Jamaica's police sick of work

Jamaica suffers from a bad crime record

Many of Jamaica's police officers have stayed at home on sick leave in what appears to be an unofficial strike in support of their pay dispute with the government.

It is estimated that about one in four officers have called in sick since Wednesday, and in some areas as many as two-thirds have not reported for duty. But the Police Federation denies that it ordered the action as part of a union protest.

Military on alert

The federation had demanded a pay rise for officers and was outraged when it discovered that the government had taken out an injunction banning industrial action by police.

National Security Minister KD Knight tried to reassure the public that their safety was not threatened by the lack of police because the armed forces had been put on alert.

[ image: Recent riots made demands on law enforcement]
Recent riots made demands on law enforcement
Jamaica has a bad crime record with robbery and gang violence particularly feared.

Last week the police released figures showing that 31 people had been murdered in the last seven days. That brought the figure so far this year to 440. Many of those were gang-related.

This is not the first time this year the military has been brought in to help maintain public order. Soldiers tackled violent demonstrations against government ordered fuel price rises in April. But more controversially they were also drafted in to tourist resorts to try to reduce attacks on visitors.

The current pay dispute has been going on for 15 months. The government offered a 10% rise on Wednesday but the union is holding out for more.

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