Union: Immigration promotion exercise ‘long overdue’

Union: Immigration promotion exercise ‘long overdue’
Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) President Sloane Smith.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — After more than five years without a promotion exercise for immigration officers, Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) president Sloane Smith yesterday welcomed the announcement of promotions for immigration officers in the upcoming fiscal period.

According to Smith, the last promotion exercise for the Department of Immigration took place in 2015, retroactive to 2013.

“In the case of the immigration department, I am heartened to hear [it],” Smith told Eyewitness News.

He continued: “It is imperative that the leaders in the organization do consistent recommendations because I want you to imagine, if an officer had been in the service for 10 years and they missed out in 2013 on that exercise; from 2013 to now, they would have had 17 years. Imagine if they miss out on this exercise, another seven years — that would be 24 years without having a promotion and that is the danger with having infrequent promotions.

“And so, one of the things the union wishes to encourage — both the customs and immigrations departments — is to seek to do more timely promotions on behalf of these workers.

“As you know, these officers work tremendous hours. Many times, when everyone is sleeping, they are out there performing, whether they are clearing a container or in the bushes searching for illegal migrants. These individuals do a whole lot and it is imperative that the government continually revisit the need to promote them in a timeline fashion.”

During the budget debate today, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said the government is committed to carrying out a promotion exercise in the Department of Immigration “as soon as possible”.

“This exercise shall be merit based with a view to ratifying all those irregularities that presently existed in the agency, in particular for trainee immigration officers many of whom, for many years now, are still not confirmed in appointment.

“The promotion exercise will also focus on succession planning in the agency, ensuring that officers have a clear path advancement in the agency.

Johnson said the ministry has actively engaged union officials and wishes the exercise to be a “collaborative process”, noting the buy-in from those who represent the officers is critical to the “success of both the promotional exercise and succession planning”.

Smith agreed.

He applauded the minister and said the union looks forward to working with government officials.

As he encouraged officers to comply with the requirements of their employment, Smith said the government cannot be blamed for instances where officers do not obtain the additional qualifications needed to receive a promotion.