Customs officers agitate for urgent attention

St. John’s Antigua- Today makes 14 days since the Arrivals Hall at VC Bird International Airport has been, by the estimation of some workers, unbearably hot, and according to National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort, it will be another two weeks or so before the problem is fixed.

“We’ve agreed that we will continue to monitor the situation over the next 24 to 48 hours. Our understanding from the Airport Authority is that the air condition situation at the Arrivals Lounge will be fixed by the 24th of this month. Apparently, they are awaiting certain parts from overseas,” Dr Cort said.

Customs officers were yesterday complaining about the length of time it took officials to respond to their pleas for relief. They also said that workers’ health was deteriorating, as many have developed problems with their throats and eyes and are suffering from headaches.

“We’re patriotic and we’re diligent, so we’re risking our health.  (Thursday) we had to fan an officer because of ill health,” one officer said.

Workers aren’t the only group of people who’ve been suffering. The Daily OBSERVER has learnt that the hall is unbearable when it contains hundreds of people, and that passengers have been dripping wet as they clear Immigration and Customs.

Meantime, Customs officers were said to be on a go-slow yesterday due to what is said to be management’s refusal, since July, to pay overtime.

The workers report that they are refusing to accept days in lieu of premium pay.

Dr Cort and Aviation Minister John Maginley held a series of emergency meetings related to both the pay and air conditioning issues. Finance Minister Harold Lovell, who is directly responsible for Customs, was absent because he travelled yesterday.

Dr Cort, however, said that he apprised Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of the concerns, and that Spencer has called a meeting for Monday at 10 am.

The meeting is to be among Spencer, Dr Cort and Customs officials.


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