Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke says 13 ports were being manned by about 230 Customs Officers while about 460 officers were needed to properly execute their duties.
He also said container scanners were needed at Pt Lisas and the Port of Port of Spain.
Duke and several members of PSA executive including first vice-president Christopher Joefield met with President Anthony Carmona yesterday.
United States’ Drug Enforcement (DEA) officers are in Trinidad to meet with officials from the country’s Customs and Excise Division and other personnel to determine who shipped the cocaine with a street value of $644 million which was seized in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, in December 20, 2013.
On the shortage of customs officers, Duke said: “We need a complement of about 460. We are working with 230. They are understaffed. Those who are working must be commended for working. The customs officers cannot be held culpable. PSA stands firmly behind them internally and externally.”
Duke added: “A strong evidence of being understaffed is the exorbitant amount of money being spent on overtime. Hundreds of thousands. Overtime is overwork. There is no replacement for a fresh pair of eyes and rested bodies. PSA is saying these places must be filled promptly as they become vacant. PSA would recommend an expansion beyond 460.
The police service has expanded its structure. Technology has increased. People are building their own pirogues and trafficking people. We need a larger complement of staff.
“There are 13 ports. In Piarco and Crown Point, they have small scanners for incoming goods. In Port of Spain and Pt Lisas, they don’t have scanners for containers. They have about 500 containers coming and going. At Shed 10, they have a scanner to scan barrels, not containers. No scanners at Chaguaramas, Point Fortin, Pointe-a-Pierre, Queen’s Wharf.”
Asked about the tete-a-tete with Carmona, Duke said: “The meeting was to ensure the newly elected stakeholders had an agenda that was in sync with the public service interest.”
Among the challenges they discussed were traffic jams on the nation’s roads which hinder productivity and contribute to road rage, he said, adding: “President Carmona has a deep concern for people. He is concerned workers should be treated fairly. He said ‘we have some of the best and brightest workers here.’”
Asked for an update on the working conditions at Licensing Office at Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, Duke said they were will be returning to court on March 24.
“We have installed fire alarms. The PSA is not here to create embarrassment but to provide a safe environment.”
Asked about spiralling crime, Duke said: “There are many people who are doing two to three jobs and they are attending classes. They are trying to get a promotion by climbing on the ladder of academia. Children are being neglected.
“We have to create programmes where people can be close to their children. We need nurseries at work. They can have a better family life.”