Customs Officers Defiant Despite Terms Agreement
Customs and Immigration officers remain defiant despite Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes having referred the outstanding trade dispute filed by the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) to the Industrial Tribunal, a move he said legally ends its strike.
The Industrial Tribunal will now hear both sides of the disputes and make a final determination.
Minister Foulkes said his decision to refer the disputes to the Tribunal was based on the public interest as the union’s actions led to a disruption of operations at the country’s various ports of entry causing an economic impact which has lasted for more than a week.
BCIAWU trustee Alma Whyms said the union plans to continue the strike, which she said is legal until the formal notification from the Tribunal is received.
Executives of The Bahamas Customs and Immigration Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) insist they have been more than accommodating to the government and are awaiting a counterproposal on their industrial contract which they submitted since February.
Foulkes said issues have been brought up that were not included in the trade dispute the union filed in November 2011 nor were they mentioned during a recent union meeting with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
“The main thing that was mentioned by the union (during the protests) was that the shift system was illegal. The shift system was agreed to in 2006 under the PLP administration and it was accepted,” Foulkes said.
Earlier this week, the minister and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham say they are unaware what issues the officers are protesting for, especially since they have had three meetings with them.
Should the officers not return to work, they could face a fine of up to $200 or six months in prison.
Although he did not say the demonstrations are politically motivated, Foulkes said it was not unusual for the labor movement to become more vocal on the eve of an election or just after a new government takes office.Customs, unions