Government may have to push back the July 1 date to integrate the Customs Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).

Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, made this disclosure to the media today after chairing a three-hour meeting with officials from the Barbados Workers??? Union (BWU), led by Advisor to the General Secretary, Sir Roy Trotman; and some employees of the Customs Department.

When asked if Government would stick to its deadline to integrate the Customs Department, Mr. Sinckler said: ???I can???t unilaterally change the timeframe that was set by the Cabinet and so I would have to go back to the Cabinet and ask for their favour in this particular regard.

???But, from what I have seen, there is a very strong possibility that we may have to push that back a few weeks in order to ensure that we get all of these matters properly ventilated and resolved???As Minister of Finance I will advise the Cabinet as to what I think is the best approach.???

Also present at the meeting, which Mr. Sinckler described as ???cordial???, were Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer; Acting Head of the Civil Service, Martin Cox; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Civil Service, Alyson Forte; Chief Personnel Officer, Gail Atkins; and several senior civil servants.

The Minister of Finance disclosed that Government would also be meeting with the National Union of Public Workers. He continued: ???I don???t think we are as far apart as it seems, but in any major change or transition there are always anxieties; people worried about their job security and whether or not their benefits are going to come with them???

“There are answers I am convinced and satisfied to all of those questions. The problem is the issue of communication and getting those things over to people.?????He pointed out that the unions received the job descriptions and other conditions of service draft agreement last week, and Government would have to give them a chance to go through the documents.

???There are some specific issues which were raised by the BWU and I expect other unions to have concerns. The Personnel Administration Division and the Ministry will respond to those concerns by tomorrow; [because those] responses have already been drafted. I think that will resolve 95 per cent of the issues and then the other 5 per cent???.we will deal with over the bargaining table,??? he stated.

Mr. Sinckler explained that the process of transitioning the Customs Department into BRA started several years ago, and a working committee in which both major unions were involved was set up. But, according to him, there were some issues which the employees did not feel were properly resolved.

???And, the officers are saying, and I think with some degree of legitimacy, that they would like to have some of those issues addressed by the Personnel Administration Division and the Ministry of Civil Service. We agree that that should happen, but it should happen in the context of information being available to everybody so that there is no misunderstanding,??? he added.

The Minister stressed that the employees would not be disadvantaged while transitioning to the BRA.

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