BWU says Govt must shoulder responsibility for Customs dispute
The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) yesterday blamed the Ministry of Finance and the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) for the current Customs & Excise Department impasse, saying there was a lack of information from the start.
Speaking to reporters on a number of labour-related issues, General Secretary Toni Moore said several different approaches were discussed on how to resolve the issue but a lack of information from the ruling Democratic Labour Party administration had led to a reluctance by Customs officers to merge with the BRA and had “elevated the sense of uncertainty”.
“Even as we speak, there are more elements of the proposal for transition that are not clear because full information is still not before us. But there is a commitment that it will be provided,” Moore told the news conference at the BWU’s Solidarity House headquarters.
Since the announcement of the proposed merger, Customs Department employees and the BWU, their bargaining agent, have expressed concerns related to appointments, job titles and issues surrounding supersession.
“The BWU recognizes, first and foremost, the implausibility of the Barbados Revenue Authority legislation being repealed. However, the Barbados Workers Union recognizes that the level of responses of the BRA and the parent ministry, the Ministry of Finance, has contributed significantly to the doubt and uncertainty that many Customs guards and officers feel regarding how the organization will function and how they, the workers, will be able to give efficient and productive service,” said Moore.
“It is for this reason that the Barbados Workers Union has maintained a position, which is a position I see rooted in the architectural truism, [that] form must follow function. Put simply, the shape of the Barbados Revenue Authority should be primarily based on the functions intended for the Customs guards and the Customs officers if or when they transition into the authority,” she added.
Moore said it was critical for the BWU to ensure that all the outstanding issues were “effectively resolved before there can be any transition, before there can be any contemplated agreement regarding transition”.
She also made clear that the BWU had given “absolutely no commitment” as to when option forms should be distributed to staff.
“The Barbados Workers Union, in our meetings over the past month or so, has maintained that the employment particulars of those being asked to transfer, should be clearly set down, discussed and agreed before persons should be even asked to exercise an option of whether or not they would want to transfer,” she said.
She also maintained that the options that were being given to the workers should be “no less favourable than what currently exists in the civil service” and that the positions should be clearly defined and understood to permit workers to exercise their options.
“The BWU therefore insisted that such guidance should come from the Solicitor-General’s office and that is a position that has been agreed,” the general secretary explained.
“The BWU reiterates our position, therefore, [as] stated to the Minister of Finance in our last meeting June 1, 2015, that no artificial date should be imposed for the presentation of option forms. No July date, no September date, no December date; no date.
“Rather, the issue of option forms should follow satisfactory resolution, in our view, of the issues I have identified previously as the major items being addressed by not only the Barbados Workers Union but also the National Union of Public Workers,” Moore told reporters.