A sick-out by Customs Officers that started Thursday has begun to bite, with customs brokerage companies asserting that they are losing money.
Well informed sources told St Lucia Times that the action by the officers could likely escalate on Monday.
A senior government official said Thursday morning that the industrial action by the Customs Officers was being ‘analysed’ but would not comment further.
Albert, who explained that he does how own small-scale customs brokerage business explained that the sick-out has affected his business.
“I cannot clear anything – I cannot do anything,” he said.
“That’s my daily bread and if customs has to be on sick-out like that I will always be at a loss,” Albert stated.
He said he visited the Customs and Excise Department Thursday to clear some vehicles on behalf of a few of his clients but declared that nothing was happening.
An official of a well-known shipping company in Castries disclosed that the company’s business has been ‘greatly affected’.
The official spoke to St Lucia Times on condition of anonymity.
“The livelihood of our company depends on customers paying for freight – paying for the release of their cargo and the exchange between customers and our service depends on customs being able to facilitate the clearing and shipping of goods,” the private sector official noted.
“For that one day – one hour, that cuts down our income drastically,” he stated.
The official said the sick-out also affects customers as shipping is a service based industry.
“If you cannot provide the service in a timely manner or an efficient manner for your customers it ruins your reputation. I suppose you are in the media so you know that bad news travels a lot faster that good news and we all know how people think, they blame us instead of Customs, thinking that we are the ones delaying them receiving their cargo.”
According to the official, explaining after the fact that Customs has a problem does not help.
“We lose money and customers lose precious time,” he lamented.
Customs officers began a sick-out Thursday to highlight concerns over the proposed Border Control Management Authority being made into a statutory body.
They are concerned about their job security, declaring that in such a scenario they will be forced to resign their current employment and reapply to the proposed new entity, with no guarantee of getting a job.
Although Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is on record as indicating that no jobs will be lost, the concerned Customs Officers, through their union – the Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA), have made it clear that they believe the PM lacks credibility.