Staff of the Customs & Excise Department will be off the job on Thursday. However, it is not because of any industrial action.
Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith revealed today that staff have been summoned to a general meeting at 10 a.m. at union headquarters, Dalkeith Road, St Michael to be updated on the latest round of talks with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on the planned transfer of Customs to the umbrella Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).
Smith said information the union had been demanding regarding the new terms and conditions of employment under the BRA was closer to being disseminated.
She said the meeting would also strategize on the way forward.
Meantime, Sinckler today indicated that the planned transition of Customs into BRA, which was due to be completed by July 1 after it was initially pushed back from April 1, was unlikely to take place before the end of the Crop Over season, which ends in early August.
He explained that “from the meetings we have had both with the NUPW and the Barbados Workers Union I think that most, about 90 to 95 per cent of all of the major issues have been discussed and in my view, fully canvassed”.
However, the Minister of Finance revealed that “there are one or two technical issues that remain and at least one of which attaches some legal consequences so that has to be resolved to ask for an opinion from the Solicitor General’s office on that matter and that is pertaining to the Public Service Act.”
While dismissing rumours of a September 1, 2015 deadline, he said: “As you know we have the Crop Over season and that is a fairly busy period for Customs. It is the summer period and therefore if we don’t go before then it would not make operational sense to try to do the transition in the middle of Crop Over. So those are the kinds of considerations we are making before we ask Cabinet to express its favour on any particular date,” he said.
Sinckler however gave the assurance that Customs, once merged with the BRA, “will operate as normal”.
“The only thing that changes in relation to how that operation runs is that what we now call the Comptroller of Customs will be the Revenue Commissioner. They [BRA workers] report ultimately to the Revenue Commissioner, but all of the management structures in terms of the chain of command of customs remain as is,” said Sinckler, adding that “the title of the officers might change”.
There are currently approximately 300 employees in the Customs division. The BRA proposed that about 280 of them would make the transition.
Sinckler said the others would be absorbed “in the general public service” in a post “at a similar level” to the one they currently hold.