Sattaur defers meeting on airport customs workers woes
-to visit airport for first-hand view
Stabroek News
April 24, 2004

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Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Khurshid Sattaur has rescheduled a meeting with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) to discuss grievances of Customs Offi-cers stationed at the Timehri airport.

The meeting, which was planned for yesterday, Stabroek News understands, was rescheduled for next Wednesday to allow Sattaur to acquaint himself with the issues.

The grievances surround proposed changes to the current shift system under which customs officers at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport operate, alleged exploitation of workers manning the recently established revenue booths, highhandedness and other forms of anti-worker practices at the GRA.

At a press conference on Thursday, GPSU Third Vice-President Karen Vansluytman-Corbin had said that the Customs and Trade Administration (C&TA) had recently informed officers assigned to the airport that changes to their work schedule were to be instituted. She said no prior notice was given.

Vansluytman-Corbin said the proposed changes would see three shifts in 24 hours - 7 am to 3 pm, 3 pm to 11 pm, 11 pm to 7 am - rather than the two shifts that obtain at present. Also, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays would be recognised as normal working days and workers would be paid at the flat rate, instead of the time and a half currently being enjoyed. Out-of-town subsistence would also be discontinued, since the airport would no longer be in that category.

She said the workers objected, but said they were threatened with severe consequences.

Requests for the new system to be put on hold pending discussions with the union were refused, she said and the staff began to agitate. This resulted in Commissioner of the CTA, Lambert Marks meeting staff at the airport and putting a temporary hold on the new system.

Stabroek News has learnt that Sattaur has expressed a desire to visit the Timehri location and meet aggrieved staff prior to engaging the union.

GPSU President Patrick Yarde told this newspaper yesterday that his union has no problem with the meeting being rescheduled to Wednesday. He said Sattaur has informed the union that the status quo will remain until the sides meet and discuss the matter.

This, Yarde said, was all the union was requesting, before any changes were made to the current system in place. He said neither the union nor the officers are objecting to a new system, but no attempt should be made to erode rights and rules.

According to Yarde the law outlines guidelines for the payment of overtime and other benefits, which are clear and consistent.