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First day fizzles
At least 40 per cent of Customs and Excise Division (CED) workers heeded the call by Public Services Association president Watson Duke to stay away from work yesterday, the first day of his call to take a two-day holiday. This, however, did not affect operations at CED, as there were minimal disruptions.
But workers at the Board of Inland Revenue did not follow the call.
Duke had called on his members at the BIR and CED to stay away from work yesterday and today in protest of Government’s intention to replace both organisations with the T&T Revenue Authority.
A high level Customs and Excise Division gave the T&T Guardian a breakdown of their operations yesterday, admitting that some of its stations were affected but not to any great extent.
CED workers operate at the ports in Port-of-Spain, Point Lisas and Scarborough, while they clear passengers’ luggage at the Piarco International and ANR Robinson Airports.
“We were able to prosecute business at most of our stations. There might have been one or two stations where the fall-out might have affected us,” the official said.
The official described the first day of rest as “a scratch rather than a bullet wound. To me, it was a fizzle. It did not have the impact Mr Duke wanted. Our organisation was in no way crippled.”
In some departments, the official said they had a full turn out of staff. Where some workers did not report for duty, the official said CED had to redeploy a few of its staff members, while some managers filled in.
Asked what percentage of CED officers reported for work, the official placed the figure at 60 per cent. There are approximately 2,175 workers from the two divisions, the official said.
As for today, the official said measures will be put in place to ensure operations run smoothly.
“We will be instituting measures to mitigate whatever comes our way,” the official said.
Contacted on the response to the first day yesterday, Duke said “I am neither pleased nor displeased.”
Pressed further, he added that the Finance Ministry would be the “best one to answer that,” adding that he was in his office “praying all day” yesterday.
On whether he believed the response would be better today, he said, “Well they have been given two days tax holidays...why not use it.”
On the next step, Duke said it would be the expected meeting with Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday.
Checks at the Piarco Airport, Port of Port-of-Spain and the Board of Inland Revenue Division (IRD) in Port-of-Spain during the course of yesterday, revealed the majority of workers reported for duty.
But in some departments, several Customs and Excise officers failed show up for work.
Checks at the BIR office at Queen Janelle Commissiong Street showed there was no high level of absenteeism, as almost all employees reported for work.
One senior clerk said employees were “mindful” of their actions, especially given the tough economic times coupled with the fact that there was an increase in job losses.
“Almost everybody came to work...just one or two did not show. We were serving customers from the time we opened and this would be same tomorrow (today). I don’t think employees are heeding the call to stay home seriously,” she said.
The situation was similar at the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) at Trinidad House, St Vincent Street.
“I don’t think anybody took that call seriously. We have a lot of work to do so it made no sense to stay home,” one employee said.
Another worker said many employees could not afford to take days off as they had already used up all their sick and casual days.
Those who did not turn up for duty were mostly officers from the Customs and Excise Division based in Port-of-Spain. There was also a small staff turnout at the Customs and Excise Container Examination Section, but one officer said those who reported for work doubled up on duties resulting in a minimal negative effect on customers. A few Customs officers also failed to report for duty at Piarco Airport yesterday.
One passenger who exited the Customs Department at the Piarco International Airport yesterday said she encountered no problems.
“I was set for them because I heard it on the news. But I didn’t have no problem,” she said.
Other passengers said they too had no issues.
Checks with employees from the Airports Authority and Service Air revealed they also had no complaints, as they said there was a full compliment of staff with the exception of one worker who called in sick.
Efforts to contact officials at the Ministry of Finance and the Comptroller of Customs were unsuccessful.