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Customs And Immigration Workers Strike

Customs workers on strike on Thursday.

Customs workers on strike on Thursday.

By SANCHESKA BROWN

Tribune Staff Reporter

sbrown@tribunemedia.com

SEVERAL hundred Customs and Immigration Workers are on strike today after efforts to negotiate a new industrial contract with the government stalled once again.

This latest industrial action involves Customs and Immigration workers throughout the entire Bahamas including, New Providence, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Abaco and Bimini.

The strike has caused major delays at the Lynden Pindling International Airport and has completely shut down operations at Prince George Wharf, Arawak Cay, the Department of Immigration and the main Customs and Immigration offices on Thompson Boulevard and Hawkins Hill.

In January, after meeting with officials of the Trade Union Congress, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes approved a strike vote for the Bahamas Customs and Immigration Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU).

The strike certificate gave the union the option to engage in industrial action should the government not live up to signed industrial agreements.

BCIAWU Vice President, Sloan Smith said customs and immigration workers are “tired of being taken advantage of by the government.”

“The people just want what is due to them. The union and the government came together and sought to put an end to this ongoing dispute,” he said.

“We met with the Prime Minister about a month ago and together we came up with certain positions that we both agreed on. When we got the contract, we realized that there were positions advanced in it contrary to what was said and agreed upon.”

He continued: “As simple as proper rates for the staff, something we worked on for two years, was changed. When they sent the document with the adjustments we took it to our attorneys and then sent it back. We got no response.

“That was three weeks ago. Our attorneys advised us that they were attempting to contact Minister Foulkes to get some sort of conclusion, but he also did not respond.”

Mr Foulkes was not available for comment up to press time.

Because the union has not heard from the government, said Mr Smith, workers decided to take action.

“We will shut everything down until the government takes us seriously,” he said.

When asked how long the union intends to carry on with the strike Mr Smith said: “That is contingent on the government solving our issues.”

He said they cannot trust the government to do anything in good faith and that they are not returning to work until they are heard.

The Tribune understands that two female employees from the Arawak Cay office have been arrested and are currently being held at the Arawak Cay police station.

Mr Smith said he was informed that they were arrested for obstruction.

The employees have barricaded the gates and the entrances to their respective offices.

According to Mr Smith, no one from the government has made any attempt to contact them.

Union members are upset with the shift system implemented by the government in January, as well as pay issues and reportedly unsafe and unhealthy working conditions.

Comments

Endtimes_Messenger 2 years, 3 months ago

This strike that the Customs officers are involved in is a very irresponsible course of action. It is very selfish and does not take into consideration all of the airline passengers such as my wife and I who are currently being inconvenienced as a result of this action. Why should customers that have nothing to do with government and union negotiations have to suffer? There must be a better solution to solving the issues between the two aforementioned groups that does not involve inconveniencing customers!

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Puzzled 2 years, 3 months ago

Who do these people think they are? Why do they think that inconveniencing travelers is going to help the only major industry that this nation has? They seem to be total delusional sociopaths who live outside the real world.

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carlh57 2 years, 3 months ago

Ya gotta love it!!! Just another fine example that other people/nations can say about this countries people, of being childish, immature and spiteful. Like a 5th grade child. Matters such as this can and should be handled with aggressive negotiations between both parties involved, regardless of how long it takes and strikes are a last measure after EVERYTHING else has failed. And when differences (or misunderstandings) occur, then those discussions again proceed. To have adversely affected NOT only other citizens (merchants, taxi drivers, regular citizens, etc), as well as tourist (which this nation survives on, mind you!!!) by this strike is immature, reeks of lack of responsibility and accountability. I just hope for the day that maturity will somehow overtake this nation and the citizenry will require more from their public officials and unions.

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rdonaldson 2 years, 3 months ago

Don't these people realize what damage they are doing to the country! How can they expect raises if no money is coming in from the airport. They are ruining this country and I have very little sympathy for them. Holding the government hostage is not the answer right now. The Union is very very irresponsible. Sure they might win a little now, but in the long run we all lose and they will be the biggest losers. I personally hate Unions. All they cause is trouble with very little benefit except for the Union bosses getting very big salaries. And really that is the bottom line. The Union bosses have to hang on to their jobs.

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Rontom 2 years, 3 months ago

Pawns in a game they cannot possibly win being advised as they are only serves one purpose and one purpose alone: holding the country captive at the mercy of the collective body--TUC. Message to Obie: This is a real country with real LAWS and a real government which has ultimate power--your political calculation is wrong. A web is built from in to out. To Customs and Immigration Officers: you are dependents and dispensable. You are not even in the game. You were never in the game.

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Apostle 2 years, 3 months ago

It is a downright shame to see what these people come down to. I hope these guys know that it is the government, which invites the airlines to come here and bring tourists to this country and not Bahamas Customs BC or Bahamas Immigration BI. When the airline agrees the government gives certain considerations and benefits as incentives, in which case we the people have to underwrite not Customs, not Immigration and not the Air Traffic Controllers ATC. The government dishes out a hefty amount of our money then to attract tourists to come to our shore. SO after the airlines agree that they would come NAD then steps in and allocate space and levy its landing fees. BC, BI and ATC through their unions levy fees on the airlines for coming or leaving after 5pm. These fees they say are to pay overtime. But that is downright selfish because a part of the government’s subsidy is to pay apportion of that overtime. So the fees that the airlines pay don’t nearly cover the overtime bill nor the cost to the government for building the airport, utilities, and other operational fees. So what’s the union problem? Both the PLP and FNM governments have tried to rotate the staff of BC and BI on shifts. They refuse because they want the overtime. Well the police and prison work shifts. This nonsense that the airlines are responsible for paying for the BC and BI officers to be present is hogwash. Every citizen of the Bahamas pay for them through the government taxation regime as the government raises its monies. The bottom line is when it is all said and done the little money that the airlines pay is far less than what it costs to have these officers present. To increase this would mean increasing taxes or fees and we already pay too much at Nassau airport to travel. When the BC, BI and ATC behave the way they do, I want them to remember that in the long run, we will all suffer should God forbad the tourists to come here. Let’s not forget that our competitive edge is location to the US and not BC, BI or ATCs. They are already complaining that it’s too expensive. The traveling public ought not have to suffer at the expense of these selfish unions. I was kept in the air last Sunday for nearly an hour circling Nassau not realizing what was going on. Maybe one of these airliners should just land on one of our streets and ask the unions to pay. We in the Bahamas enjoy a relatively good salary when compared to other Caribbean nations. BC a Jamaican custom officer salary is $636,50 per month. Customs officers in Antigua and Barbuda are arguing with government as well as those in Barbados, who are also accused of robbing the people blind. These governments cannot afford to keep paying them. They are dispensable and can be change as much as The Bahamian destination is dispensable to the traveler. They don’t have to come here. We ask them to come then we spit in their faces.

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RightIsRight 2 years, 3 months ago

It is not just the union that should be held responsible. What about the government that apparently changed what they verbally agreed during the meetings. These things always drag out until the election so that the union has the upper hand.

The real solution is for both parties to select and equally pay a mediator/arbitrator. Whatever the mediator decides then it is binding. Stop all this back and forth.

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