Employees of the Customs & Excise Department are breathing a bit easier tonight following a three-hour meeting between Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, Minister of Labour, Senator Dr Esther Byer, and representatives of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU).
Emerging from the meeting around 2:15 p.m. today, Sinckler spoke directly to a large gathering of Customs workers in the car park of Government Headquarters.
He later told reporters that his delegation had been able to allay the fears and anxieties of the workers, who are due to transition into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) by July 1.
The Minister of Finance also expressed optimism that 95 per cent of the workers’ concerns had already been addressed.
He said the other five per cent were “juggernaut issues” which would be dealt at the bargaining table.
“The workers would like some of those issues resolved, and if not fully resolved, addressed by the Personnel Administration Division of the Civil Service. We agreed that that should happen in the context of information being available to everybody so that there is no misunderstanding,” Sinckler said.
Acknowledging the critical role that the Customs & Excise Department plays in Barbados’ development, Sinckler assured that Government had no intention of compromising the security of the country.
He also reiterated that no officer would be disadvantaged as a result of the BRA move.
“We had a very cordial meeting with the BWU. We are also going to meet with the National Union of Public Workers. I do not think we are as far apart as it may seem. But as you may recognize in any change there are always anxieties,” he said.
Also commenting on the outcome of today’s deliberations, veteran trade unionist Sir Roy Trotman, who was sitting in for BWU General Secretary Toni Moore, who is out of the island, welcomed progress made in the talks.
Sir Roy told reporters he has been assigned the task of updating the NUPW’s acting General Secretary Roslyn Smith on today’s outcome ahead of a further meeting with Sinckler by early next week.
President of the BWU’s Customs Guards Division Nicholas Mason and clerical officer in the Customs and Excise Department Troy Harper also expressed satisfaction with the progress made today.