Uncertainty continues to hang over the planned transition of the Customs & Excise Department to the state-run Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), Government’s revenue collection agency.
The island’s largest public sector trade union has warned the Freundel Stuart administration that its members would not become part of the BRA unless a number of issues were settled.
The deadline for civil servants seconded to the BRA expires on June 30 and Acting Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Walrond has made it clear the vexing issues must be resolved by the deadline.
One of the union’s demands is that a number of vacant posts at Customs must be filled before the transition is even considered.
Walrond told Barbados TODAY that appointments had been made to the grade of Customs Officer 1, but the Customs Officer 2 and 3 grades were still pending.
“We would have submitted our issues where some persons who have a certain qualification should have been considered for an interview and, therefore, we are awaiting the process to ensure that every person is given a reasonable chance to vie for the Customs Officers Level 2 and 3 positions.
“So once that process is completed, we would be in a position to further advance talks on any possible transition. But that is a condition that must be met first,” he insisted.
The Acting Assistant General Secretary also cautioned that Government must satisfactorily address new terms and conditions of employment for officers desirous of working for the BRA, as well as the matter of pensions.
He said the union had written to both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Civil Service requesting amendments to the Pensions Act that would guarantee that workers would continue to enjoy the same pension benefits they have enjoyed as officers of the public service.
“So that’s another issue that we are still awaiting. So we are not at a stage to advice the workers to make a final acceptance of employment because we would want them, in accordance with the Employment Rights Act, to have clearly spelt out terms and conditions of employment,” Walrond explained.
The union executive revealed that the NUPW was in possession of the latest draft
of those terms and conditions and was examining the document to ensure all the necessary amendments had been made and there were no issues arising out of that collective contract.
“We are very anxious to have this exercise completed. As you may be aware the secondment with the Barbados Revenue Authority has been extended from March 31 to June 30. So as at June 30, the pensions should have been terminated. So we are hoping that we could get the terms and conditions concluded,” he stressed.
When contacted this afternoon, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told Barbados TODAY he had no further updates.
“That matter is being handled by the Ministry of the Civil Service, the BRA and the PAD [Personnel Administration Division]. As minister I am not involved in that process,” Sinckler said.
On the heels of protests by the union last year against BRA’s decision to distribute option forms for the transition, Sinckler asked, “how can you make a choice, if you don’t know what the offer is? Officers either want to transition or they don’t. It has to come to a stop at some point in a time where certainty and surety has to exist”.
Back then, he also revealed that there were about 100 posts to be filled at the Customs Department.