Gibson says shift systems will remain in place
Minister of Labour Shane Gibson said Friday the government will keep in place the present shift system for customs and immigration officers.
"It wouldn't be in the best interest of the country right now if we were to take customs and immigration officers off the shift system," Gibson told The Nassau Guardian.
"I believe that it is generally accepted that it is very necessary at this time. I?think coming to the destination is very expensive.
"The airlines complain about the amount of overtime they have to pay, so hopefully I?believe that we can reach a formula that would allow everybody to be satisfied that the shift system is in the best interest of everybody at this time."
Customs and immigration workers returned to their normal shifts on Tuesday evening, said Gibson, who threatened to cut their salaries a day earlier.
"I don't know the sequence of events," Gibson said Friday.
On Monday, Gibson said he was advised that customs and immigration officers were ignoring their scheduled shifts and showing up to work at different times.
Sloane Smith, vice president of the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU), said at the time that workers were not taking industrial action, but simply following general orders and working nine to five Monday through Friday.
"Those who don't show up for their shift, we will make sure they get cut right away," Gibson said on Monday.
Earlier this year, workers staged industrial action after expressing frustrations in dealing with the Ingraham administration, which they claimed failed to resolve their issues.
Those issues include concerns about the existing shift system. The union is also seeking to negotiate a new industrial agreement.
The customs and immigration officers labeled the shift system "illegal" earlier this year.
"Obviously if we thought it was illegal we wouldn't be doing it, so from our point of view we think that it's all within the confines of the law and the agreement and of course with general orders as well," Gibson said yesterday.
He said officers will always be able to make overtime, but not in the way it was done before where all customs officers were working from nine to five Monday to Friday and all work after that was considered overtime.
"That's something I don't foresee us going back to," he said. Gibson said he was taken aback by workers' actions this week.
"When you have a real open door policy and you allow for regular consultation to meet with the representatives as often as (they) want to meet to discuss what they want to discuss...of course you are taken by surprise when you hear they are taking any sort of industrial action," he said.
© 2012 The Freeport News