Government officials are reporting good progress in today???s talks with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) regarding the integration of the Customs Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).
Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, today chaired the two-and-a-half hour meeting at Government Headquarters, which was led by President of the Union, Akanni McDowell; Acting General Secretary, Roslyn Smith; and included some employees of the Customs Department.
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; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Nancy Headley; Revenue Commissioner, Margaret Sivers; Chief Personnel Officer, Gail Atkins; and several senior civil servants were also present.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Sinckler said he was very pleased with the discussions. ???I think the Union placed a number of very important issues on the table relative to the transition and reform processes and we sought to respond to those concerns. I think we responded to them very well.
???The most critical and established fact we have been able to put on the table is that nobody will be transitioning, if they agree to transition, in a disadvantageous position. There are many different categories of workers involved – temporary and permanent – and they will transition at different levels.
“But at the end of the day, everybody is given that equality on transfer. Once they [temporary employees] perform their duties as normal, they will all have appointments at the end of the process,??? he pointed out.
Mr. Sinckler explained that those employees who qualified under the Public Service Act by way of Section 13 and satisfied all of the requirements, even if they did not currently have an appointment, would be treated as though they were appointed.
He added that those temporary officers who might not fall under Section 13, but who had performed the duties of Customs Officers in the process, would transition to BRA once those positions were available at the levels at which they had been performing.
???If in the large category of clerical officers there are not sufficient positions for that, they can also have a position in the BRA as administrative officers working within the system, so everybody is taken care of in that process,??? he stressed.
The Minister said that issues of national security coverage for all of ports of entry and other places that Customs Officers/Guards worked were also discussed during the meeting. ???Whatever we do in this exercise, national security at the borders cannot be compromised, so the coverage will be provided,??? he insisted.
He added that Government had provided all of the necessary information to the NUPW officials, who were now expected to go back to their membership and discuss the matters with them. He disclosed that the option forms would then be issued so that the Customs employees could make their decisions.
However, Minister Sinckler reiterated that since a lot of the information now had to be digested and some points might still need clarification, the July 1 transition date might now have to be changed. He stressed, however, that he could not make such a decision unilaterally, and that he would have to seek Cabinet???s guidance on that matter.
Government officials also met with the Barbados Workers??? Union and some of its members on Monday to discuss the proposed merger.