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More immigration officers on shift at airport, Border Control Minister confident industrial action over

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – March 8, 2018 – The team of Immigration Officers working at the border control checkpoint of the Providenciales International Airport has been bolstered to 10, with more officers on standby in the event they are needed to support the processing of arriving international passengers.

Industrial action by members of the immigration airport staff led to an embarrassing back-up of travelers who waited in some cases, up to four hours to be processed and allowed into the country.  

“While we support any staff who needs to represent themselves, we also cautioned them on the implications that some actions can take on the industry.  I am happy to say that walking away from that meeting, I feel confident that we should not see a repeat of what happened this past weekend.”

Deputy Premier and Minister of Border Control, Sean Astwood addressed media fresh off of a meeting with immigration officers, the Permanent Secretary, Directors, Management and the Deputy Governor.

Minister Astwood said, “The initial shift system had eight officers scheduled however over the last couple of days you had a number of officers that did not show that is how we ended up with the four and five being present at any one time.  We have now boosted that up to ten officers, on a day like today, with additional officers on call.  On the weekends – Saturdays and Sundays – we should be looking at a minimum of 14 officers with additional being on call.”

The Minister explained that the issues resulting in the dreadfully long lines at the international arrivals terminal due to a shortage of Border Control manpower at the PIA is a thing of the past.  Hon Astwood announced in a press conference held today at the Office of the Premier in Providenciales that there has been resolve on the issues of pay and overtime pay. 

The DP, who first apologized for the problems in service, said the cost for the extra hours was unsustainable and that the method instituted to control those costs was resisted by some and it led to the industrial action and eventual shortage of staff.

“The new shift system is needed.  The shift system is borne out of the audit report that was done where the overtime amount for the airport staff was well over anything that could be sustained by government and it needed changes to be made in order to minimize the amount of overtime that we were experiencing from that department.”

It was expressed that while there may be some who are still not in agreement with the changes which reportedly must be made, there was largely a ‘buy in’ by the immigration staff of the amended system.

The Minister further explained: “Due to staffing issues at the airport in terms of how the system was designed, it was not adequate to meet the demand at the airport.  We have now addressed that in a number of different ways moving forward and we expect that what had happened on Saturday and Sunday and the reports we have gotten so far this week, that we should not see a repeat of that today.”

The Deputy Premier joined a press conference already in progress, and held to deal with the long lines at the airport and concerns emanating out of Salt Cay.  Hon Sean Astwood described what sparked the ‘sit out’.  

“I will say that the no shows stem from persons who felt like they did not support the shift system.  We’ve now, I think, got to a point where we have properly explained the need for the system and also working with them on how we can make it better and how we can make it work for everyone.  I think we’ve got buy in from the staff, generally on that. On the issues of overtime they now are fully abreast of how that issue is gonna to be addressed moving forward and I can say from the meeting that we had and the commitment from the staff to fully cooperate that they understand the importance of their role in performing not just in protecting our borders, but to make sure that they know the importance of the guests coming into this country and their role in the tourism industry… it is not something we can trifle with,” said Deputy Premier Astwood to media.

The Deputy Premier confirmed that if necessary, the Immigration Department is prepared to pull officers in from the office or outer island complement in order to deliver on expeditious service at the Provo International Airport.

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