Well over 3,000 cruise visitors were inconvenienced today due to a go slow by Customs guards at the Bridgetown Port.
For much of the morning, there was chaos at the main gate of the Port as taxi and coaches spilled onto the street. Long queues were also visible in the cargo area.
One worker described the situation as madness, as the 3,469 passengers from the Carnival Liberty sought to leave the Port for sightseeing.
Last week, the Customs guards had given notice they would take industrial action. They are uncertain about their future given the planned change over of the Customs & Excise Department to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) on July 1.
They also complain that they have not been provided with adequate information in terms of the security of their jobs and conditions of employment.
The guards are further upset that the future of about 28 temporary employees could be in jeopardy, having not been appointed and not even knowing if their contracts would be renewed after a period of time.
While not commenting directly on the action of the Customs guards, Acting Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Walrond warned the Government that if the concerns were not properly addressed, the situation could spark a backlash within an already volatile industrial relations environment.
“The process must be done fair and transparent. There must be adequate information. Workers must be made to feel that they are comfortable; that workers want issues of appointment addressed.
“Once these issues are not forthcoming one can always anticipate that the industrial relations [climate] will get volatile, if workers are not given their due,” Walrond cautioned.
He said Customs & Excise workers were concerned about their future and with this apprehension and unease, it could explode.
“So I think if the authorities are serious about Customs and the way forward, they cannot treat Customs as another casualty of just going over the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA). . . [since] you are placed in situation where you may or may not have a job. It is not fair to the Customs Department, which is a professional body.”
“We are insisting that Customs be treated as a collective group. We already have concerns that there has been a lot of downsizing, posts have not been filled, there have been retirements and Customs right now is under-staffed because people are working under pressure. In fact, there is justification for maintaining the numbers in Customs as we speak right now,” Walrond contended.
He urged the Government to pay attention to why “so many” people want to leave BRA, as well as reports of a lot of people wanting to return to the general pubilc service or opt for early retirement.