Inniss laments the fact that striking officers are getting full pay.
by Marlon Madden
Outspoken Government Minister Donville Inniss has taken issue with the fact that protesting Customs officers, who have been engaged in a costly go-slow since May, are still guaranteed their full pay.
In strongly condemning the action by the group of Government-paid workers, Inniss said he was particularly concerned that the Customs officers did not seem to be bothered about the negative consequences of their actions.
“Whenever we have these industrial issues of such magnitude, and workers in the public sector in particular take this kind of action, they do it knowing full well that it will put additional pressure on the state,” he said.
“But the thing that saddens me is that these folks who take industrial action invariably get their pay cheques on time . . . but there seem to be very little regard for the people in the private sector, for example, who may lose their jobs or lose income . . . because they are not able to get supplies in to operate their own business.
“ . . . those are the people that I worry the most about. [However], the public officers are going to get paid and get paid on time and they are going to get the full amount,” he stressed.
Speaking to reporters against the backdrop of complaints from several businesses that the go-slow was taking a toll on their operations, and had already resulted in the shortage of a number of products, he acknowledged that “people would have bought items in preparation for the Crop Over season, for any increase in tourism [activities] during this particular summer season; for the back-to-school supplies; and of course for the natural replenishment of food items, including perishable items,” adding that the clearing of non-perishable items appears to be an even bigger issue.
To make matters worse, several businesses have reported since last week that duties were being incorrectly added to goods of CARICOM origin, which are supposed to enter the country duty free.
Today, the Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Lisa Gale also weighed in on the situation, revealing that the Chamber had already dispatched a letter to Inniss outlining these concerns.
Gale said the Chamber’s letter was also sent to the Acting Comptroller of Customs Annette Weekes, the Commissioner of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) Margaret Sivers, as well as management of the Barbados Port Inc., in the hope of having a speedy resolution to the problems.
“We have [also] spoken to persons at Veconintor, the entity which does the charges for demurrage. We have asked them for some leniency; we have also asked the Barbados Port authorities for some leniency and they have committed to assist, given this challenging time that is going on, as it relates to the Customs go-slow,” added Gale.
The BCCI spokeswoman said while she was not being insensitive to the Customs officers, businesses were now “significantly constrained” due to fact that some companies “have several containers in the Port and [have] not been able to get them out with the speed with which they have been accustomed”.