BRA pull back
by Randy Bennett
It’s back to business as usual at Customs.
Protesting officers of the Customs and Excise Department tonight agreed to end their two-month long go-slow over Government’s plans to absorb them into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA). In return, BRA agreed to withdraw the contentious option forms that were given to the employees.
The decision came during a near four-hour long meeting at the Ministry of Finance’s Bay Street office between Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, management of BRA and the workers’ representatives.
In what he referred to as “full, frank and fruitful discussions”, Sinckler told the media just after 8 p.m. that the parties would meet next Wednesday to resume negotiations.
Flanked by General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Toni Moore, Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith and President Akanni McDowall, the Minister said he hoped a speedy resolution would be found at these talks.
“As an act of good faith and in keeping with good industrial relations practice, the current option forms issued will be rescinded and normal operations within the Customs will be restored immediately,” Sinckler announced.
“We have agreed as parties that we will work to get through these issues. I don’t believe that there is such a large chasm between us. I think that a number of the issues through the discussions we have had over the number of months and weeks have actually been generally resolved, but there are one or two juggernaut issues that need to be addressed.”
The Minister explained that the troublesome issues were in relation to appointments, the securing of pension rights and issues pertaining to supersession.
He noted that while there was a need to reach an agreement as rapidly as possible, it was imperative that the workers’ rights were respected.
“We don’t have an extended timetable within which to operate. We have to move with some degree of haste. But in doing so, haste does not mean and should not mean that we cast aside the rights of any particular worker . . . whether that is an appointed worker or a temporary worker, as the case may be.”
Sinckler insisted it was never Government’s intention to undermine Customs workers, but that the intent was that any transition exercise would be done humanely.
Meanwhile, Smith said she was satisfied with the negotiations and that her union would put together a list for submission to “activate” next week’s talks.
At the same time Moore said she was “comfortable” with the strides made and the BWU was looking forward to a satisfactory outcome to the next meeting.
“There may be some operational challenges that may be impacting the smooth and speedy flow of processes at the airport and at the seaport and wherever these have occurred, once we have highlighted it . . . there is going to be an attempt to manage this to make sure that there is no confusion; that any shortfall that still exists is not related to any perceived action on the part of workers to delay a process,” Moore explained.