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Mitchell To Probe Sickness Absence Of Immigration Staff

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday said his ministry is investigating why eight of 12 immigration officers failed to report for work at the Lynden Pindling International Airport on Wednesday – their absence resulting in severe queues for many who tried to clear immigration.

The officers, who were scheduled to work, called in sick, raising concern that they might have taken industrial action.

Nonetheless, both Mr Mitchell and Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson said yesterday the incident appears not to have been union-related.

Mr Gibson said: “I have no reason at all to believe that it is union related.” Mr Mitchell added: “There’s no evidence of any sick-out. A sick-out is a matter of industrial action. There is an investigation underway because (Wednesday) should not have happened for all sorts of reasons. The country was embarrassed.

“The Bahamian public was embarrassed. Whether people took industrial action, that’s up to them. But whatever the eventuality was, we have procedures. Whether industrial action took place or whether people were simply ill, we have the ability to deal with those issues.”

Operations at the airport returned to normal yesterday.

Shonallee Johnson, communications manager of the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), said: “Passengers are being processed in very reasonable fashion, there have been no delays and no complaints.”

Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) representatives have also denied that the union had anything to do with the unusual situation.

A statement from the Ministry of Public Services yesterday did not refer to the airport incident, but emphasised that Mr Gibson has made himself available for discussions with members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), of which the BCIAWU is a part.

“In the case of the Customs and Immigration Union, it was made very clear from the outset that all issues, including financial issues, which formed the basis of contract talks would have to be incorporated as a part of the Industrial Agreement,” the statement said.

“This position was agreed and accepted by the union and a subsequent meeting was held with the Customs and Immigration Union, their attorney Mr Obie Ferguson and officials of the Ministry of Public Service to conclude an Industrial Agreement for signature.”

“The document was reviewed by the Minister of Labour and the parties were invited back to the table to finalise the document; however to date the Customs and Immigration Union has failed to return to the table to finalise the contract so that its members can receive the payments agreed.

“The Ministry wrote to the union inviting it to return to the table, however, the Ministry was advised that Mr Obie Ferguson, counsel to the union, was out of the country and the union was not inclined to return to the table without Mr Ferguson. Meanwhile the Minister and his officers await the return of the union to finalise the contract so that the payments can be made to those deserving and hardworking uniformed members.”

Comments

TheMadHatter 5 years, 2 months ago

I wonder what location on the planet Earth Mr. Ferguson has traveled to - where there exist no fax machines and no e-mails?

I remember back in the 1970's, one time, a guy faxed a contract to another guy - and that second guy was able to read it clearly and review it. I wonder if that could still work in 2014?

TheMadHatter

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TheMadHatter 5 years, 2 months ago

Just tinkin 'bout all dat turkey mussey give dem the bird flu - LOL

TheMadHatter

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empathy 5 years, 2 months ago

It's hard to believe that this was not a coordinated effort from the Immigration officers, even if not union sanctioned. It does beg the question "whose controlling the workers?" This debacle by our Immigration Officers at LPIA does erode the positive impression and support Bahamians had of them with their recent professional performance following the Nov 1st change in policy. Those at the forefront of our tourist industry must always bear in mind how important, but fickle this industry is and should not play around with it! Our Arrival Area at LPIA leaves a lot to be desired during the best of times and should be looked at. May be VIP's, especially those in positions to make a change should actually "walk through" the process to see how frustrating it can be. Both at the Immigration and the "free for all" Customs area! Many have suggested the Customs area should be more organized, with signs specifying "declared vs undeclared" rows, as well as a "Bank Teller" type turn style line. Better management, oversight and accountability is what we need: someone's head should roll, oh wait I forgot it's "government" that I'm talking about ;-(

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ohdrap4 5 years, 2 months ago

it is the black friday virus. this virus only strikes on mondays or on fridays right before a public holiday. in my job there are a couple of people who get sick during the busy season, faithfully. Some of us immune to the black friday virus worker harder for no extra pay.

Not me anymore. I handed HR a list of people for whom i will not substitute because they only get sick during the busy season.

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