Unrest is brewing within another Government department and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is preparing to intervene to avert industrial upheaval.
Coming on the heels of last week’s NUPW-led protest march by retrenched National Conservation Commission (NCC) employees, a dispute seems to be unfolding at the Customs & Excise Department.
The NUPW’s acting general secretary Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that “all is not well” as some workers in acting positions were being returned to their substantive posts.
“We are having some rumblings within the Customs & Excise Department . . . where we are having some reversions, I understand. It relates to the whole BRA [Barbados Revenue Authority],” Smith said, although declining to provide further details.
“These things are unfolding one after the other. This [matter with Customs & Excise] is not sitting well with the workers.”
Smith said the union is working to address the situation before it gets out of hand.
The BRA, which was established last year, brought the Land Tax Department, the Value Added Tax Division, the Inland Revenue Department and the revenue collection functions of the Licensing Authority under one umbrella.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY for comment on the situation at Customs, spokesperson for the BRA Erica Lazare said all questions would have to be directed to the Personnel Administration Division or the Controller of Customs because the department in question had not yet come under the umbrella of the BRA.
Meantime, Smith disclosed that the union was awaiting word from the Ministry of Finance about when retrenched NCC workers would receive their severance pay.
Last week, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer reported to union officials the NCC management had forwarded the names of 80 former workers who wanted to get their severance, rather than challenge their dismissal before the Employment Rights Tribunal.
Smith said she did not anticipate the wait would be too long, but she said the NUPW would be in touch with the ministry to see what progress had been made.
“It is a debt that they have to pay. If you owe the workers money, you have to pay,” she said.
As for the other workers waiting on the tribunal to be reconstituted following the resignations of eight of its nine members last month, Smith said labour officials would be confirming their nominees during a high-level meeting of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) on Thursday.
However, she was not as optimistic as Byer that the hearings would soon start.
The labour minister said last week that she expected the tribunal to be up and running from the beginning of next month, based on assurances from the unions that their representatives would be submitted by month end.
Almost 200 retrenched NCC workers have been waiting to have their case heard – or be paid severance – since being sent home in April last year.