Two trade unionists were in full praise of Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s move to “correct the wrongs” which have existed at the Customs and Excise Department for over 21 years.
While speaking in the Upper House during the Constitution (Amendment) (No.1) Bill 2019, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn and independent Senator Toni Moore said they were pleased with the attention the PM has given to Customs and the immediate action implemented.
Speaking in the House of Assembly Tuesday night, after a three-hour meeting with Customs and the unions, the PM said: “We agreed today, and I am happy to report to this Chamber, that we created a new post . . . called customs officer 4.”
Mottley explained that her decision sought to correct a situation where clerical officers, dressed as customs officers, were carrying out the duties of a customs officer with some in that position for 21 years.
The Prime Minister said: “I am happy to report to this Chamber that I expect to receive in my hand in less than two weeks a draft 2017 new Customs Tariff Order for us to review and sign off. What couldn’t be done in 10/12 years has now been done in four weeks.”
In reaction to this, Senator Franklyn said that the Prime Minister must be complimented for taking swift and decisive action.
“I admire the Prime Minister yesterday [Tuesday] something that the unions were asking for for at least 20 years. The Prime Minister sat over there in that chair and said to the director general you can get this thing done today, we want it done today. She had it done today [Tuesday]. If the Prime Minister does something that I don’t like I say so I must also say when she does something good. It took 20 years to get this one thing done.
The leader of the Unity Trade Union further explained the plight of the officers who are now more secure in their roles.
“Most of the people who were doing the work at the airport, seaport and doing searches were not customs officers they were, clerical officers, wearing Customs officers uniform. But the law gave the Comptroller of Customs the right to deploy clerks. So you had people at the clerical level some with as much as 30 years doing work at a level senior to what clerical officers should be doing. Those people who the Prime Minister made Customs Officer 4 yesterday now have security of tenure…”
Senator Moore, who is General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, said she was pleased with the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting. She said she hoped the engagement and listening ear of the PM would continue.
“I too would want to commend the Prime Minister for being a Prime Minister who listens. She will not always listen and act in the way that you would want, but to her credit she listens. The things that can be changed and the things that you shouldn’t have to sweat blood and tears over are things that I believe we are seeing efforts to respond to.
“Not only in the meeting that we had yesterday, to address the issues of Customs and so on, but in a number of other areas and I say that, not for the Prime Minister or the Government to become comfortable or complacent, but as a commendation and a request that this is something that should continue.”