Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler says the process of transitioning the Customs & Excise Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) could begin any day now, as he today dismissed the latest concerns expressed by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) about the merger.
“I believe that the Government has really gone beyond what would normally be expected in a circumstance like this. And we will have a further intervention or statement to make depending on what the outcomes are. But as far as I can see, I think we have reached a point where we can begin the process of transition. That is just my view,” Sinckler told reporters this morning.
And in response to concerns raised by the NUPW’s Senior Industrial Relations Officer Wayne Walrond that the island’s national security could be compromised by a “watered down” border security plan under the terms of the proposed merger, Sinckler has warned the union not to go there.
“I don’t know why the union is getting itself involved in that. National security issues are dealt with by the personnel and the ministries responsible for national security and nobody is going to design or reform a Customs system that compromises its core function,” argued Sinckler.
“The core function is border security, which is a part of the national security system. It works not only with Customs, it works with police, it works with Coast Guard, it works with the Defence Force, it works with all the disciplined security forces that operate at the front line of the country. Therefore, I am not sure why the union is getting itself all involved in those matters,” added Sinckler.
Insisting that any concerns relating to national security were for the National Security Council, Sinckler said that group “has met, has reviewed and has seen the levels of staffing, the technical skills and so forth that will be required, and therefore they are satisfied that this does not disrupt and will not disrupt the security apparatus of the country.
“I am not sure what is the purpose of them [the union] getting involved in that and saying that should stop a transition. I mean, there must be some other issue. That really can’t be the issue,” he told reporters today on the sidelines of a visit to schools in his constituency where he donated back-to-school supplies.
Customs officers are expected to sign and return their option forms by September 19, and the transition is to be completed on October 1.
However, the NUPW had advised Customs officers not to sign the option forms.