Leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Branville McCartney said yesterday his party supports customs and immigration officers who have been striking in recent times, and he hit out at Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette over recent statements he made on the matter.
A few Defence Force officers have been placed at Lynden Pindling International Airport as a result of the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union's (BCIAWU) demonstrations, which began last Thursday.
On Tuesday, Symonette quashed claims made by union officials that the Defence Force officers were not sufficiently trained to do the job and the country's national security was at risk to illegal entries.
"Over the weekend we had peak numbers and [the immigration process] went far smoother with the Defence Force officers in place than it did with the immigration officers out on strike," Symonette told The Nassau Guardian.
"The Defence Force officers have been trained and instructed in how to use the system. The system they are using is not nuclear science. It's a computerized system where you swipe the person's passport and certain information comes up [regarding] whether they are on the stop list etc."
McCartney said yesterday he was 'shocked' by these comments and said he felt the customs and immigration officers have been "put on the back burner".
"They have totally been disrespected and they do have legal issues that ought to be addressed," said McCartney on the sidelines of a press conference at the DNA's headquarters on Prince Charles Drive.
"And I find that to be an insult, and I have no doubt that the immigration officers would find that insulting. The position of immigration officers is not something that you can just brush aside and say that anyone can do it or that persons are doing a better job."
An agreement has yet to be reached on several outstanding issues surrounding the negotiation of a new industrial agreement, including health insurance, compensation and what the union has claimed is an illegal shift system.
However, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has said that since his meeting with the union in February, there has not been "any matter that is outstanding or that is deserving of consideration by the government".
BCIAWU officials will meet with members of the Trade Union Congress today to discuss the union's next move, according to Sloane Smith, the union's vice president.
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