KINGSTON, Jamaica— Immigration officers at the two major airports in Jamaica along with officers at all out ports including the passport offices and the wharf have taken industrial action, National Workers Union General Secretary, Granville Valentine confirmed.
He told OBSERVE ONLINE that the strike action taken by the employees was a long time coming as they have been disgruntled about the management at the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), but the compensation review negotiations was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“How this came about shouldn't be any surprise to the powers that be or the management [because] the workers have been frustrated for a very long time and more so in recent times from multiple points of view, but especially the way the compensation review has been handled by the management. We must lay this burden squarely at the feet of the management,” Valentine said,
“Yes there is some slowness of the finance ministry in terms of how they clarify some things and how they treat certain matters but… the workers have lost confidence in the management wherein they don’t believe that they care about them, they don’t believe that they are looking out for them and they believe that they are not respectful to them. They believe that as it relates to their needs and their jobs, they are not treated with the respect that is due to them,” he continued.
Valentine stated that based on calls and complaints he has received, over 250 employees have taken action to include sickouts, sit-ins and other employees, though on the job, “on go slow”.
The trade unionist stated that while the immigration officers do not want to have the airports shut down or have the situation result in chaos, he is calling for those in authority to properly manage those in charge at PICA.
“One of the problems that I think that exists at the agency is that too much power and authority is placed in one individual— one post has too much power and authority. For example PICA doesn’t report to a board, what they have is an advisory board. They need to have a board at PICA so that any CEO that is there reports to the board,” Valentine stressed.
On the issue of the compensation review negotiations, Valentine said that the workers, like other public sector employees who have since accepted their wage packages, want to be properly compensated.
“The workers want to be properly aligned, so we are looking at the method that is used for TAJ (Tax Administration Jamaica) and Customs as an approach that could be taken to try and resolve the outstanding matter as it relates to salaries,” Valentine disclosed.
When asked how long the industrial action will go on for, the trade unionist stated that he is unsure of the duration but hopes that Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke will intervene.
“I don’t know how long industrial action will continue but I hope the minister of finance will intervene. I spoke with the minister last night and they are setting up meeting to resolve some of the main matters but the outcome will depend on them. I am willing to meet anytime to try and fix this because it is not something that we are not happy about,” Valentine said.
“We want to bring closure. We want everybody at one table so we can resolve these issues quickly so that the country can get back on its normal footing especially at the airports,” he added.
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