by Edward Hutcheson
Listening to the demands of the Customs and Immigration Union members, makes you wonder if there is any reasonable dialogue happening in that organization. Two of their demands stick out like sore thumbs and you wonder if the term “economic fallacy” has application here. Before the last election we heard that members wanted their overtime pay to be listed as a part of their regular salary, this would look good on a mortgage application but who is to say that an employee will be receiving that level of overtime or pay during the life of his mortgage. It only qualifies you for entry into a higher market, since a specific salary figure is on a Government letterhead. But, what then? With the plans ahead for changing our tax regime, with the probable combination of VAT and Tariffs, it would be advisable that the leadership of the Union spend more time helping the government to work out the kinks that are bound to come. WTO membership demands that we make those changes, changes that will result in a downsizing of the Customs Department and the expansion of Immigration.
If that was all to it, we could look ahead. Yesterday there was a news clip, where Mr. Sloan Smith told us that 80% of the overtime revenue came from somewhere else. I am still trying to figure out what he means. Is he saying that this is not revenue that belongs to Government or that The Customs Department is no longer the direct employer in this regard? The officers in this particular union, must understand that they are not self-employed and that they are government employees. Mr.Smith comes across as a sensible, articulate individual, but he has to go back in his memory to see who came up with these two ideas that smack of entitlement.
Hopefully, none of his members have a mortgage problem, because these two issues may come up in the discussion and even persons in the group they supported will ask for an explanation. They may have been quiet during the campaigning but now that the bills have come due, this is the time for the noise to cease, and even the utterances from the DPM and Chairman Roberts about “prosecution” are but smokescreens; none of them would like to meet the former Prime Minister in court, even on a rainy day. There is nothing wrong with making demands, but we create problems when we give the impression that those demands are exclusive to everything else that is going on in the country, those who take this line are heading for a myopic existence.
Labour unrest has a dark-side when used as a tool of political expediency. The outcry that came from union leadership about the amount of space they got in the Charter for Governance should have informed them of what was ahead. If Union leadership believes that Labour demands can only be fulfilled through political means in a nation that is almost 40 years old, they need to think again. But, when we fool ourselves that our needs are more pressing that other citizens in the nation who may not even have a job, we end up being deceived; regardless of how important we think our lifestyle is. Those who guard the nations resources have to see themselves at a level that is functional and proactive, and that “functionality” dictates that we (Bahamians) must see things as they are, before we make a move to where we think they should be.
May 25, 2012