Government is yet to say specifically how a now four-day old go-slow has impacted its operations.
However, top officials of the Immigration and Customs Departments Tuesday sought to set the record straight following a charge by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) last week that Government had sought to derail a meeting it had called for both immigration and customs workers.
In a statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service, Chief Immigration Officer Wayne Marshall confirmed that he had received correspondence from the NUPW last Wednesday requesting permission to hold a general meeting with all immigration officers at 10 a.m. on Friday to discuss a number of grievances affecting the workers.
Marshall said he wrote back to the union the following day informing that while he would normally have no objection to such a meeting, the notice given by the NUPW on this occasion was simply too short.
He therefore felt that the proposed meeting would “significantly disrupt the operational efficiency of the department since it is experiencing a peak period of activity which requires that all immigration officers be deployed”.
The Chief Immigration Officer said he had also invited the union representatives to meet with him instead of with his workers at 10 a.m. on Friday or at any other mutually agreeable time to discuss the grievances, notice of which Marshall said had not officially been given to the management of the Immigration Department.
However, he said the union did not accept this invitation, adding that he was also not officially informed that the union had rescheduled its meeting for all immigration officers for 2 p.m. Friday.
Acting Comptroller of Customs Annette Weekes also said in the BGIS statement she had not received any notice of a meeting by the union or any request for permission for staff to attend such a meeting.
The union had earlier accused the leadership of the Immigration Department of attempting to undermine the industrial relations process.
Following Friday’s meeting with a handful of officers, General Secretary Roslyn Smith complained that the Chief Immigration Officer had denied a request for permission for officers to attend the gathering.
“We had a meeting this afternoon with representatives of the immigration and the customs [departments]. We know that persons would have been pre-empted from coming to the meeting.
“We had written for permission which they [Immigration Department] did not give, but we still had representation from Immigration who came to the meeting,” Smith had told Barbados TODAY.
In recent weeks the union has been at odds with the Freundel Stuart Government over the reversion of its president Akanni McDowall from a senior to a junior post in the public service, with the union deciding late last week to embark on a go-slow at the two major ports of entry pending a reply from the Personnel Administrative Division to its demand that McDowall be reinstated to the senior post of Acting Health Planner 1.
However, the union reported this evening that PAD was refusing to budge. The NUPW therefore said it was prepared to step up its pressure on Government.