While it is Government’s intention to ensure that no jobs are lost when employees of the Customs Department are integrated into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), there is still the possibility that some workers may end up on the breadline.
However, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has promised that any such action would be a last resort, and only after all other options had been explored.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Sinckler made it clear it was not Government’s intention to retrench any workers.
He was responding to reports that only 279 positions were being offered by the BRA for the 300 Customs employees.
“I don’t know that necessarily they will be on the breadline. I don’t think it is as automatic as that.
“I believe those who are permanent, if there are any permanent employees, of course they will remain in the public service and the Personnel Administration [Division], as I am advised, would be responsible for finding places for them in the general service,” the Minister explained.
“Those who are temporary and who do not currently hold an appointed post, the same thing will apply.
“The public service administration will look across the service and if there are applicable positions into which they can transition, they will be offered those positions. If there are not, then those who are balanced may have to leave the service . . . but our ultimate objective is not for anybody to lose employment. That is not the purpose of this exercise,” he added.
Sinckler said while the BRA already had positions established, there were only so many more new positions which could be made available.
“They can only take as many as they can handle and afford in the circumstances.”
He pointed out that after the transition process, the BRA’s wage bill would be significantly lowered.
Earlier today, senior officials of Government met with employees of the Customs Department to answer queries and allay any fears they might have regarding their employment with that statutory corporation.
Those attending the meeting, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, included Acting Head of the Civil Service Martin Cox; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Division of Finance of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Nancy Headley and her Deputy Betty Alleyne-Headley. The Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Civil Service Alyson Forte, and the Acting Revenue Commissioner Tyrone Lavine were also present.
Cox disclosed that the Minister of the Civil Service, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, would soon make a decision on the staff positions of the External Taxes and Border Control Division of the BRA, which will be the new name for the Customs Department.
He continued: “The Ministry of the Civil Service has received the proposals from the BRA, through the Finance Division, and my information is that Ministry has made its assessment and submitted its recommendations to the Minister.
“All that is left is for a decision to be taken so that we can indicate to you and your representatives the number of staff positions that will be incorporated into the BRA, as well as relevant remuneration and job description,” he added.
Cox said the integration of Customs into the BRA was a major Government decision and employees, therefore, were entitled to have an opportunity to raise any concerns.
He told the staff that they need not be afraid of moving to a statutory corporation, pointing out that of the 100 temporary officers who were offered contracts to work at BRA in 2014, 94 had been appointed, while six had their probationary period extended.
The BRA was proclaimed on April 1, 2014, and the functions of the Departments of Inland Revenue, Land Tax, VAT and Excise Divisions of the Customs and Excise Department, along with the revenue collecting aspect of the Barbados Licensing Authority, were consolidated.