Bra holdup

NUPW tells Customs officers not to sign govt option forms

The Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) has been told to “get its house in order”.

This stern message has come from General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith, as negotiations between the union and BRA hit another snag.

In an almost two-hour meeting this afternoon with close to 200 BRA employees at the union’s Dalkeith Road, St Michael headquarters, Smith advised them not to sign the option forms recently issued to them by the revenue collections agency.

It was the second time that the NUPW had instructed its members not to sign option forms and the latest development came less than three months before the March 31 deadline for the transition from Customs to BRA.

Smith reiterated that in a meeting with BRA’s Commissioner Margaret Sivers last December, she advised the state agency not to issue the option forms until certain concerns expressed by workers and the NUPW had been addressed.

“The transition would officially expire at March 31, 2016, and while you would recognize that, yes they may want to start up the process early with the Personnel Administration Division, I think they need to get their house in order first,” Smith told members of the media shortly after the conclusion of the meeting.

“The meeting was called as a result as an option form that was given to workers to have them signed by January 15, which is Friday. We would have met with the Commissioner last December to discuss a number of issues which had been raised by staff at a previous general meeting and during that meeting we had asked that the option forms not be given to the workers, pending the response on one of the ticklish issues relating to the pensions arrangement.

“Hearing now that the forms were issued, we convened this meeting to bring the workers up to date on the matters that were discussed and to inform them not to sign, because we have not yet sat with the management of the authority to go through the terms and conditions to the satisfaction of the workers and the union.

“It makes no sense in asking workers to sign an option form, when they are not aware of the terms and conditions that they will be signing onto,” she insisted.

Additionally, Smith said other “pressing matters”, including sick leave, annual vacation and car loans needed to be addressed as part of the terms and conditions.

She revealed that the union had also written to the Auditor General seeking his interpretation in writing on the matter of pensions, because workers were concerned that by transitioning to the BRA, it was “recognized their pensions would not have been worked out in the normal fashion”.

The NUPW boss said the move to issue the option forms without first consulting the union might have been a scare tactic.

“Some managers probably feel that if they do things unknown to the union or behind the union’s back that they can get persons who probably fear for their employment to do such things; but I think workers are enlightened at this point of time.

“They pay the union to represent them and that is what we are doing and therefore we have instructed them not to sign the option forms until we say so,” she said.

The NUPW head said she was seeking a meeting with management of the BRA either Thursday or Friday to further discuss the matter.

The transition to BRA has been plagued with problems, with Customs officers staging strike action last year. During such protest last July, the NUPW accused the authorities of attempting to intimidate the workers, most notably, temporary employees and warned that the Customs officers would not sign the option forms until the consultative process had been completed.

President of the NUPW Akanni McDowall noted that while the deadline for the transition was fast approaching, the union was more concerned with the rights of its workers.

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