Customs, immigration union threatens strike
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 18, 2013
The Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) is threatening to take a strike vote if the government does not provide medical insurance coverage for non-uniformed customs and immigration employees.
BCIAWU Vice President Sloane Smith said the union filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour yesterday and would take further action if the government does not resolve the matter by November 1.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the government will have to analyze each of the union’s demands and the financial impact.
Smith said clerical and other public officers from customs and immigration engage millions of tourists each year, increasing their risk of contracting infectious diseases.
“Despite the fact that the government recognized the customs and immigration officers and non-uniformed officers in [the constitution of the union], they seem somewhat reluctant to afford the clerical and non-uniformed staff...what the law allows them to have, that is the medial coverage,” said Smith, at a press conference at House of Labour on Wulff Road.
“That is critical to them. They and their families have a right to it, and we are insisting the government look at this and resolve it as quickly as possible.”
Smith said his union recently met with the prime minister and other government officials.
However, he said while that meeting was positive, it appeared to be nothing more than mere talk.
He said Prime Minister Perry Christie has the power to make the change without any further discussions.
“There are at least 300 non-uniformed officers – public officers – who are void of medical coverage,” Smith said.
“In the immigration department, there are at least 110 people who are not uniformed officers who are void of medical coverage.
“... For the government not to give these people proper medical coverage is discriminatory.”
The union also wants the government to provide utility and transport allowances for people relocated to the Family Islands.
“These people have to bear the additional cost of leaving their homes to foot utilities and if you realize what the Family Islands are like just simply to pay gas is probably... one and a half times that of New Providence,” Smith said.
“The utilities, whether it is light, water, cable or telephone — those basic amenities that they enjoy here — the government has been asking and the customs and immigration staff have been unduly paying that excess.
“We are asking the government to meet those costs.”
Smith added, “I know they are going to raise the issue of having a provision for a bus to transfer people to those jurisdictions, but the regulations that govern our work simply say you owe them this amount.”