Barbados’ border security could be seriously compromised by a “watered down” border security plan under the terms of the proposed subsumption of the Customs & Excise Department under the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), the union representing Customs officers has said.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) did not release details of the stipulations for the merger, but Senior Industrial Relations Officer Wayne Walrond said this was a major concern for officers who are resisting Government’s latest deadline for the merger of the two entities.
Acting Head of the Civil Service Sonja Welch told Customs officers last week that the transition would be completed on October 1, and that “on Monday September 5, you will receive a package, including an offer letter”.
Revenue Commissioner Margaret Sivers had also emphasized that the letters should be returned to BRA no later than September 19.
The NUPW, which earlier this week advised Customs officers not to sign the option forms, met with the border control officials Thursday morning to discuss their concerns.
Following the meeting, Walrond said customs functionality under BRA was being reduced to revenue collection at the expense of law enforcement and national security.
According to the union official, officers were concerned that the removal of the autonomous powers which they currently hold would seriously compromise border security, especially at a time of rising concerns about the importation of illegal firearms and drugs.
“The officers have serious reservations about Customs as a revenue collection arm without the type of autonomy they are accustomed to in executing law enforcement in the name of border security,” Walrond said.
He explained that the officers felt integral components of their function had been greatly diminished and undervalued.
The trade unionist cited as an example, changes at Port St Charles, which he claimed could make it more difficult to confront narcotics and gun traffickers.
“One of things which officers feel insulted about [is] the security proposal for the Port St Charles point of entry. Why would remove a physical presence to go with a mobile patrol unit?
“Officers believe that this is not the best for security. It is of no consequence if the traffic is high or low as it presents a potential area for the entry of narcotics and arms to come in. Even if just ten vessels were coming in, one vessel could bring in hundreds of pounds of cocaine,” Walrond stressed.
This, he suggested, demonstrated the dangers of “a watered down border security plan” under the terms of the proposed merger.
“You can’t just look at numbers, you have to look at the efficiency of the department,” he insisted.