General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore is making it clear that her union was never opposed to having cameras installed at this island’s ports of entry.
Responding to a statement made this week by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite to the effect that Cabinet had instructed the minister responsible to do all within his power to immediately see that we have cameras at all of our ports of entry and that no one, including the trade unions should be against what was considered to be “a national security measure”, Moore told Barbados TODAY that the BWU “obviously would support [such a move] because [we] at no point in time opposed such implementation.
“In fact, when cameras were first introduced to the port, one should recall that there was no statement from the BWU negating the need for cameras or the value of cameras in the port,” she added.
With that in mind, Moore said it was difficult to understand why the issue was raising its head as one that trade unions might be challenging.
“What I recall [the unions] challenging is that if there is going to be any change in the work environment,” she said, while suggesting that there was absolutely no harm in the authorities recognizing the need for consultation on the proposed changes — something which she said the union had always advocated for.
“I think what is required at this stage more than ever is appropriate consultation with all stakeholders, all of the relevant authorities, so that the best decision can be implemented. This is so that categories of workers, and I refer specifically to the customs officers and guards, would not be presented to the public as being culpable of anything or contribution to a situation which we have now recognize is really out of control,” Moore advised.
She also took exception to the Attorney General’s “very pointed statements” which she said “suggest or lead one to conclude that the reason, for all the negatives in this society, especially as it relates the increased spate of crime and violence, point to customs guards and officers.
“This is where we have to be careful that statements, even if well intentioned, may not in fact be reckless enough to apportion blame to a particular category of worker for a number of the ills that we are now experiencing in our society,” the BWU boss cautioned.
The decision to install cameras had previously faced resistance from the National Union of Public Workers, which has long raised objections to the idea on the grounds that customs officers were performing a sensitive role which required confidentiality.
However, the BWU General Secretary stressed the need for dialogue, while suggesting that “if there is adequate consultation, those are things that can be clarified and sorted out.
“The unions should not purport to get into any kind of discussion that would see us trying to manage a customs department or to manage those kinds of arrangements. What we would want is to make sure that through consultation, any decision made or plan implemented is not one that is injurious to people’s condition
. . . . To me, that is an operations issue that we can be made aware of through discussion. I wouldn’t want to get into that,” she said.
Addressing the third quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association on Wednesday, Brathwaite said it was no longer a question of if, but when cameras would be placed at ports of entry.
“It wasn’t done in the past because there was some petty arguments, [such as], ‘who are going to look at the cameras, what happens if an officer wants to do something private’ and all kinds of pettiness. Those days are past. It has to be done. Given the level of gun violence we are seeing in this country it has to be done and we intend to get it done,” Brathwaite told the audience, which included Griffith, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and hotel executives, adding that police and other border security officers would be given “equal” power at the ports of entry.
Brathwaite also said Government was “moving aggressively” to scan all containers entering the Bridgetown Port, “along with enhanced use of scanners and security cameras at all ports of entry”.
And in an attempt to further wrestle the crime situation, he said Government intended to allow police officers additional powers to carry out searches.
However, Moore believes there needs to be a complete overhaul of the island’s defence and security infrastructure, otherwise, she warned that things were liable to continue slipping through the cracks.