Pain is a wonderful teacher, and in the Caribbean, few countries have experienced economic and social pain like Jamaica.
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Imbert to provide PSA with answers today
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has reportedly promised to provide the Public Services Association (PSA) with answers by today regarding the proposed establishment of the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA) and how it will affect some 2,175 Board of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise employees.
This was the word from PSA president Watson Duke following a meeting with Imbert at the Finance Ministry, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
He said this was PSA’s first consultation with Government regarding the TTRA, noting the team comprised officials from the Customs and Excise Division and BIR.
Duke described the hour and a half long meeting as “extremely cordial and amicable,” but noted, “The minister’s plan is on steroids, he is moving full steam ahead.”
Duke said no assurances were given regarding the transitioning of officers from the two divisions to the TTRA.
“He (Imbert) collated the questions asked and said he would get back to us by tomorrow (today) with the list of things we would have asked, so as to ascertain whether those are the areas of concern,” Duke said, adding another meeting has been scheduled for December 4.
“We asked about job security and whether workers who move from the BIR and C&E to the TTRA, if they would move into secure jobs, and there was no answer. We also asked about workers who were now earning a non-contributory pension, if they would be able to move across with those pensions until a pension plan is set up under the TTRA and there were no assurances given,” Duke said.
“We asked questions regarding the placement of officers from C&E and BIR, such as tax officers, specialist audit officers, customs officers and customs guards, and whether these workers can find redeployment in the public service with similar jobs and again there was no answer forthcoming.”
Duke claimed the meeting had left them more concerned about the workers’ future.
Warning he would be heading into the December meeting a changed man, as he predicted success at the November 27 PSA election, Duke said the union remained committed to their members and ensuring their rights were preserved.
Responding to questions relating to the PSA employees who staged a protest outside the head office last week, Duke dismissed the concerns raised by the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) during a meeting yesterday. He in turn accused BIGWU president Vincent Cabrera of engaging in “politics.”
He sang, “Satan, you can’t prevail, Satan...you can’t prevail.”
Also asked to provide an update on the status of Immigration Division officers, who are represented by the PSA, Duke answered, “That’s a very broad and deep topic and what happened there yesterday (Sunday) is symptomatic of a larger issue.”
He was referring to the fact that the majority Immigration officers failed to report to work at the Piarco International Airport as rostered on Sunday, leading to a hundreds of arriving passengers having to wait hours before they could be checked.
Promising to address the issue at an appropriate time, Duke said, “I am standing by my members 100 per cent. They can depend on the PSA for representation.”
Pressed to say if it had been a coordinated strategy for customs officers to “rest” last Thursday and Friday and for Immigration officers to embark on sick-out action on Sunday, he replied, “Sometimes it rains for the whole weekend. Sometimes it just rains on Saturday and the sun comes out on Sunday, I can’t tell the future.”