National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) President Akanni McDowall is sticking to his guns on issues relating to Customs Officers and says that the union will not be bullied into anything but the best for those workers.
As he emphasized the union’s stance against any “detrimental” conditions for Customs workers in Government’s attempt to absorb them into the Barbados Revenue Authority, McDowall told those attending Thursday’s opening of his union’s 73rd conference that the executive is still open to talks.
Speaking at the NUPW’s Dalkeith headquarters, McDowall said that his organization “continues to be open for discussions and negotiations about how best to streamline and improve our various public service functions,” but stressed, “we will never be open to the outright bullying tactics and disrespect for the process of consensus building and partnerships”.
With elections for a new union boss scheduled for early next month, McDowall outlined for members the many successes of his term in office, and spoke of an accomplishment in ensuring that Customs Officers are not integrated into the Barbados Revenue Authority “in a manner that would be detrimental to them”.
He said, “there is a need for reform in the Customs Department however, the union remains unconvinced that housing of the Customs Department under the Barbados Revenue Authority is the most [suitable] arrangement”.
“Until the Customs Officers of Barbados can be guaranteed tenure, and the various issues and other concerns are ironed out the union will stand hand in hand with its primary stakeholders, the worker, in articulating and agitating for answers to their concerns,” McDowall said.
Putting into context the NUPW’s demand for a 23 per cent salary increase for its 9,000 members, McDowall said that the public service has changed with added responsibilities at every level of service, with some added tasks not officially included in their job descriptions.
“They have been taking on these tasks in good faith for the benefit of our country,” he said, and added, “the economic fallout in Barbados has added another layer to the work of public servants”.
He reminded the audience that public service posts were frozen as a 2014 cost cutting measure.
“The result is that persons have been doubling, sometimes tripling, and sometimes quadrupling on tasks.”
Further, he said that many of these officers are working without adequate resources.
“Public servants who once considered themselves middle-class are struggling to pay mortgages and buy food,” he said, explaining that in some cases they are having to choose between buying food and paying the mortgage.
McDowall said that the union cannot ignore these issues, and spoke of a need to rekindle the economy, empower workers with disposable income to invest, and create spending power. (GA)