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Customs, immigration workers want advance

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Dec 12, 2012

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Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) Vice President Sloane Smith yesterday indicated the union’s wish to meet with Prime Minister Perry Christie on or before December 15, in a bid to resolve the outstanding financial issues related to its new industrial agreement.

He did not speculate as to what may happen if the union’s request is ignored, only stating that a strike is not looming.

The union entered negotiations with the government in September. However, both sides have reached an impasse in industrial negotiations, said Smith.

“We have come to that point where we simply feel we need to speak with the honorable prime minister to bring closure to quite a [number] of issues that are outstanding,” Smith said.

“We are still seeking to conclude our industrial agreement and at this point it is imperative that the government understands that, although there are persons sitting with us in negotiations, we’ve already seen their hand.”

The union also wants some of the money in the next contract this week.

“We are asking for an advance on the ultimate package, just an advance,” said Smith.

Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson said that during negotiations with the government’s bargaining team certain financial issues were entirely skipped.

“All money items in the agreement, the government negotiators said that they cannot deal with it, whether it’s vacation, overtime or hardship allowance,” he said.

“Their position is they are not authorized to deal with that. So it’s not one item, it’s all money items.”

During an Urban Renewal event Christie said Minister of Labour Shane Gibson has all responsibility in terms of negotiations with unions in The Bahamas.

Christie said: “Everyone knows that the country right now is challenged in terms of growth and debt.

“We have tried to communicate that to all of the unions we have been negotiating with and trying to get them to agree to what we would call limits on what they wanted.

“In the case of the customs and immigration union, we’ve been waiting to see...because their [case] is slightly different.”

The BCIAWU took strike action during the lead up the May 7 general election after failing to reach any understanding with the Ingraham administration on its industrial agreement, and what the union branded an illegal shift system.

Gibson recently told The Guardian that the shift system would remain in place.

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