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50 % turn-out at Customs, more workers absent at BIR

Published: 
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Day two of PSA industrial action
A passenger exits the Customs and Excise area of the Piarco International Airport yesterday on day two of industrial action signalled by the PSA. PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

There was a further decline in attendance of Customs and Excise Division officers yesterday, as an estimated 50 per cent who were rostered for work turned out. This, as officers again heeded the call by Public Services Association president Watson Duke to stay away from work, the second day of his call to take a two-day holiday to protest the formation of the T&T Revenue Authority.

Duke said he was satisfied with the response, adding that his intention was not to bring any burden on the Government agencies.

He said that he was simply seeking the interest of the workers. Duke had called on his members at Customs and at the Board of Inland Revenue to stay away from work on Thursday and yesterday in protest of Government’s intention to replace both organisations with the T&T Revenue Authority. He said workers could face job losses.

On Thursday, an estimated 60 per cent of Customs officers stayed away from work.= Contacted yesterday a senior Customs official said the Port of Port-of-Spain and Customs House at Government Campus Plaza were affected but added that there were contingency plans.

“We have put contingency plans in place to ensure we continue to serve the public and continue to do what we are supposed to do as protectors of revenue.

“We are fully much in control of what is happening. The organisation is in no way crippled....We are not 100 per cent but we are very much functional,” the official said. Asked about the turn out at the ports, he said, duties at the airport were not disrupted adding that “flights have come and passengers were dealt with.”

“All our major areas we have been able to manage. There may have been one or two areas which there may have been some fall-out but this is expected...with the workers who came out we have been able to manage,” the official said.

Regarding the details of the contingency plans, he said “Middle management also turned out and they are on the ground and manning the stations to make sure things go smoothly.

“The only place where we had some little fall-out was the Port of Port-of-Spain at the (shipping) barrel section,” the official said.

Another Customs official said officers who reported for work at Government Plaza said employees who came out had a number of additional functions to perform as there was just a skeletal staff on duty.

Checks at the BIR office, on Queen Street revealed “more workers” stayed home yesterday than on Thursday.

“It may be because it is is Friday that some workers decided to take the day off...but we still had a decent enough turnout of staff to assist the public,” one employee said.

Asked how workers viewed the Revenue Authority, she said, most employees had no issue.

“The employees really have no problem with the Revenue Authority. We see this as a good measure to make everything more efficient and make the workload easier,” one employee said. But at the Inland Revenue Division at Trinidad House at Independence Square, Port-of-Spain it was reported that “quite a number of employees” failed to turn up for work, resulting in several disgruntled members of the public gathering outside.

One worker said it appeared that yesterday, being a Friday, was a “better day” for workers to stay away from work.

“If workers had stayed away from work from the Thursday then they would have had to bring in a sick leave and that would have been difficult for many of them,” he said.

Several members of the public had to be turned away at Trinidad House as the majority of clerks stayed away.

“They done work half day and now look at the inconvenience the public now has to face. I have to come another day to get my business done,” one woman said.

Duke is expected to meet with Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday to discuss details of the Revenue Authority.