Customs officers protest
For the second time this month officials of the union that represents customs and immigration officers instructed their members to discontinue working yesterday, as a result of escalated concerns they claim management has failed to address.
On November 1, the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) instructed officers to demonstrate after members repeatedly complained about mold at the Customs Warehouse on John F. Kennedy Drive.
Although officers are no longer stationed in that building, union officials claimed yesterday that several other locations where customs officers are stationed have similar problems, including Arawak Cay.
“The dust levels are so bad out there we have had officers hospitalized with respiratory infections,” said BCIAWU Trustee Alma Whyms.
“You have mold in some of the air and port stations and they say you have medical insurance. The insurance picks up 80 percent, but you pick up the other 20 percent and you’re talking about thousands of dollars.”
Trainee customs officer Tracy Pritchard added, “The dust at Arawak Cay is crazy and I was put in a position where I was hospitalized because I developed an infection in my lungs because of the dust. Luckily for me, I put in a letter and I was transferred, but many officers are out there dealing with those conditions every day and getting unhealthier every day.”
Comptroller of Customs Glenn Gomez told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that he was aware of some of the claims made regarding the Arawak Cay station, but was awaiting an official report from engineers sent into the field last week to inspect for mold.
“I was also told by an officer who has worked out there that…occasionally they would see some stuff on the walls, but they had people in there and they found that it was dust coming inside when they opened the door,” Gomez said.
“It sits there for a while and it just discolors that particular portion of paint. If there is mold, we will find out, but I don’t know that there is.”
That report is expected to be submitted sometime next week, Gomez said.
He added, “We have asked the operators out there to do different things. They sprayed water in a solution to keep the coral sand down, but they complain that the area gets mucky and say their cars are getting dirty.
“There is a chemical somewhat like asphalt but not quite that they sprayed on the coral sand so it gives it a topping, but then they complained that these little black balls which formed are kicking up on their cars. What can we do?”
Customs officer Coderro Edgecombe expressed another concern, claiming that customs officers stationed at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) have to walk unsupervised when their shifts end at midnight because the airport bus system stops running before that time.
“I don’t think anyone wants their daughter to have to walk almost a mile from the LPIA terminal all the way to John F. Kennedy (Drive near LPIA), where they have the parking for us,” Edgecombe said.
He was speaking to approximately 100 customs officers demonstrating in front of the Customs Department headquarters on Thompson Boulevard.
“You have to walk in the dark at midnight to get to your vehicle and there is no security,” Edgecombe said.
Gomez explained that Nassau Airport Development Company’s (NAD) bus service transports staff and civilians from the terminal to the parking lot and vice versa.
However, he pointed out that officers complained about traveling on NAD’s bus service with individuals they have just searched and required to pay duty.
He added that officers have complained that NAD’s bus service reportedly stops running before midnight, but advised officers to use the department’s bus service which is made available at that time.
“They were instructed to find out which officers wanted to catch a ride to their vehicles,” he said.
“Our bus would transfer them to where their vehicle is parked, but if you say ‘no, I am not waiting for the bus because the bus waits until everyone is ready, and I want to go because I have to be somewhere’ and you choose to jump in the airport’s bus, there is nothing I can do.”
He added, “We have a vehicle that is there to transport them and all they have to do is wait until the other people have been transported to their vehicles before being taken uptown. So that should not be an issue because that has been addressed.”