Customs move to BRA not a done deal
There is still a possibility that the Custom and Excise Department will not be absorbed into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) if Customs workers determine they do not want to be part of the revenue body, President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall has said.
One day after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler assured the country that Customs would be merged into BRA, McDowall said it was not yet a done deal since the employees were the ones who had the final say.
Sinckler held a three-hour meeting with representatives of the NUPW, which represents the majority of Customs officers; the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the revenue authority, after which he announced that the talks had gone well and that Customs would definitely fall under the authority of BRA
However, in an interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon, McDowall said while negotiations were still ongoing, the decision to move to BRA was very much in the hands of employees, stressing that the union would support the workers’ decision.
“If the majority of the officers decide that they don’t want to go to the BRA our role as the union is to support them. And if they decide that they want to be part of the BRA our role as the union is to support them,” McDowall explained.
“The decision is very much up to the workers. The only time that decision can be made is when those option forms are issued. But those option forms can only be issued when negotiations have been completed.”
He added that before that decision could be reached there were several “outstanding issues” which needed to be addressed, including appointments and supersessions, and that the NUPW would continue its negotiations with the Ministry of Finance in an attempt to have those matters resolved as quickly as possible.
“As soon as all of the concerns of those officers are addressed, the option forms will be issued and they will have the option of whether they want to be part of the BRA, or if they want to remain within the Customs department.”
In acknowledging that there was matters yet unresolved, Sinckler said after yesterday’s talks that the various parties had set themselves “a very ambitious agenda” to have those matters dealt with as quickly as possible, and that following revision of the option forms, a distribution date would be agreed with the union.
“We will work on the date of distribution in the meantime. Very shortly we should be able to say to the staff of the Customs and Excise Department and the public when the option forms will be distributed,” the Minister promised.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn, who was noticeably absent from yesterday’s meeting, told Barbados TODAY he would not sit in any meeting chaired by the Minister of Finance or any other Minister as it related to the public service.
Franklyn, whose union represents around 70 Customs workers, was adamant that Ministers of Government had no authority to intervene in such matters.
“There is an established practice which is set out in the Constitution of Barbados on who should be dealing with the public service and it does not provide a role for a Minister of Government.
“I told them up front that I would not be meeting with any Minister to discuss appointments in the public service. It is not his function,” he contended.
Caswell insisted it was the function of the Public Service Commission (PSV) and the Chief Personnel Officer to deal with appointments in the public service, insisting that this was done to protect public officers from politicians.
Sinckler addressed Franklyn’s concerns when he spoke to the media yesterday, saying he had not invited himself to the meeting but he was satisfied that he helped move the process forward and got all sides walking in the same direction.