President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union, Elroy Bouche. (iWN file photo)

By Kenton X. Chance

The Public Service Union (PSU) has used the Immigration Department to illustrate what it says are unfair promotions within and among public service workers, over which it has taken the Public Service Commission to court.

President of the union, Elroy Boucher, told a press conference on Tuesday that within the Immigration Department, there is one Chief Immigration Officer, two assistant chiefs, one deputy chief, seven senior immigration officers, 13 immigration officer III, 18 immigration officers II, and 28 immigration officer I.

“Most immigration officers [are] experienced. In fact, the seven senior immigration officers have a number of years’ experience, some ranging from 18 up to 21 years experience.”

The union head said that over the years, these senior officers have not been given an opportunity to advance even to the position of assistant chief.

“Each time the post of assistant chief became vacant, it was filled by somebody who was brought in from outside of the Immigration Department, often times, someone with very little or no experience,” Boucher said.

He said that in 2010, that post became vacant and it was filled by Ms Burke, wife of then Chief Personnel Officer, Tyrone Burke.

“The post was never advertised. The senior officers were never given a chance to even submit applications. Ms Burke [came] from [the Ministry of] Education and filled that post.”

Boucher said the post again became vacant recently and it is occupied by someone who came to the department under the Supportive Education and Training (SET) Programme.

“That is the experience that that person … had and then they … [came] in and [went] to the top of all of those officers — officers who have had years upon years of experience, who … have done numerous workshops on border security and immigration-related training. They were never given an opportunity,” Boucher said.

He added: “It means that in that particular department you cannot have a movement from Immigration Officer III to senior unless the seniors retired, because there is no upward movement from senior to assistant chief. And it begs the question what criteria does the Service Commission use to grant promotion and appointment.”

He said immigration officers expect that when they work hard they will have a chance to be promoted, but the union believes that they are not given that opportunity.

“And there is often no explanation, so there is clearly a lack of transparency and a lack of fairness.”

In its case against the PSC, the union is alleging that the PSC has failed to comply with the regulations that govern the promotion of public service workers and has failed to observe principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity in exercising its functions under the Public Service Regulations.

It is also claiming that there have been unreasonable delays and inconsistencies in the promotion process and that these delays and inconsistencies are unlawful.

The union is further asking the court to order the PSU to implement an efficient, transparent and effective promotion regime in accordance with the regulations.