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Duke going ahead with PSA ‘holidays’

Published: 
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Although Finance Minister Colm Imbert is set to meet Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke on Monday, Duke is still calling on his members at the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) and Customs and Excise Division to stay away from work today and tomorrow.

Duke renewed his call at a press conference at PSA headquarters in Port-of-Spain yesterday, shortly after Imbert issued a press release saying he (Imbert) intends to clarify the effect of Government’s proposed plans to replace both organisations with the T&T Revenue Authority.

“The staff in customs and BIR are stressed out. Have you seen them lately wandering around the streets of Port-of-Spain? They are frustrated,” Duke said.

If successful, the PSA’s call to its members is likely to affect the operations of both organisations across T&T, including at all airports, ports and courier and shipping companies, where Customs staff are stationed.

The proposed move has been criticised by Government and business leaders, who have asked the workers to reconsider their intended action.

However, Duke predicted their operations would not be critically affected today, as the PSA had a strategy for the “quasi-protest” action.

“Mind you, it may not be all the workers as yet, because we are quite careful. But if the minister continues to go down that road of not consulting and wanting to clarify he would have to face with the law,” Duke said.

Duke also said he was ambushed by the release, as Imbert never informed him of the meeting agenda before announcing it publicly.

“I was a bit taken aback, surprised and confused to recognise that while we were discussing that, the media and the population were fully aware that we have meeting on Monday via a press release from his office and he also set an agenda, which I want to discredit and expose for what it is.”

He was careful to note that the Civil Service Act required the minister meet with the PSA before taking any steps which may affect the terms and conditions of employment of members.

“It is not a favour he doing for me, he has to and is bound to meet. Let us meet in good faith,” Duke said.

While he was critical of the manner used by Imbert to communicate the meeting, Duke said he would still attend.

“If the minister wants to have proper consultation, we are prepared for consultation. But do not disrespect us with any clarification. It is an insult,” Duke said.

MINISTRY: JOBS WON’T BE AFFECTED

The Ministry of Finance is assuring Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) and Customs and Excise Division staff that their jobs won’t be affected by plans for a T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA).

In a release yesterday, the ministry said all staff jobs will be secure.

“All workers, including established, temporary, contract and daily paid, will have the option to move to the TTRA or remain in the public service on no less favourable terms and conditions. Workers who choose not to go to the TTRA will be redeployed into the Public Service,” the release said.

It said TTRA workers will also enjoy employment rights and entitlements under T&T labour legislation, including vacation, maternity and sick leave, while they will be allowed to join a trade union and their pension benefits will be secure.

“Pension entitlement will be computed up to the date of transition into the TTRA. Upon retiring from the TTRA, pension benefits will be based on the cumulative service in the public service and the TTRA,” it said.

The release said workers will be assigned in the new entity based on skills, knowledge and experience, with staff already being invited to fill out forms to ensure they are matched based on their skills set.

The release also sought to advocate the need for updating the country’s tax management system.

“It is necessary at this time to have a Revenue Authority that will promote an equitable, fair and just tax system and provide value for money.”