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Government And Union Ponder While Concerned Customs Officers Oppose Border Control Plan

By VOICE Reporter
Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet [PHOTO: PhotoMike]

SOME Customs Officers are ‘dead set’ against the proposed new Border Control Agency and voiced their opposition at a meeting Tuesday (yesterday) afternoon. That’s according to St Lucia Times Online, reporting on a meeting attended by Customs officers at their union headquarters at Sans Soucis.

Close to 100 officers were reported to have attended the meeting at the Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA), where they were seen as “determined to oppose the agency.”

Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

The main concern of the officers attending, the report states, was “job security”.

It said: “The Customs Officers are unsure of whether a statutory body will be created, asserting that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet’s public denial does not harmonise with a Cabinet conclusion on the subject.”

Published reports earlier this week indicated that Cabinet Conclusion No. 247 of 2018 dated April 16, 2018 approved the establishment of the Saint Lucia Border Management Authority as a Statutory Corporation.

Officers who have spoken to the press say they are confused by the differences between what the Prime Minister said and what the Cabinet of Ministers decided.

Prime Minister Chastanet has said that the goal of the proposed new agency is to strengthen this country’s border and will result from the integration of Immigration Department of the Police Force, the Customs & Excise Department, and the Quarantine and Marine Police units.

The PM met last week with representatives of the CSA to discuss concerns over the proposed new agency, after having received a request from CSA General Secretary Claude Paul for a meeting.

Last week’s meeting was the second by Customs Officers with their union.

At the first, they reportedly reviewed actual plans and decisions related to the establishment of the agency, which National Security Minister Hermangild Francis has also confirmed will soon materialize.

Image of Minister for National Security and Justice, Hermangild Francis
Minister for National Security and Justice, Hermangild Francis

In an earlier statement, the Prime Minister offered assurances that no jobs will be lost as a result of the creation of the new agency, while Minister Francis also assured that a former Customs Comptroller in charge of the transition team will not head the new agency.

Customs officers attending the two meetings also complained that some were being assured their jobs were secured, but not all. But these and other claims have been dismissed by the Office of the Prime Minister as ‘Fake News’ that should be ignored by the local media.

However, in the absence of enough public knowledge of details related to the advanced plans for the new border control agency, officers at the various branches of the national security service to be affected continue to harbor uncertainties and anxieties they could very well do without.

A senior national security official who spoke to The Voice on condition of anonymity said, “It will not bode well for the new agency if those to man it will do so in the present state of mind.”

The official suggested that “The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security should move quickly to allay their fears and address their concerns, as they cannot leave this to the CSA.”

“If this is allowed to become an issue involving trade union agitation and industrial action before it gets off the ground… This is something that must be avoided at all costs,” the senior official advised.

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