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Customs officers suffer low morale, stress and anxiety in job, GGCA poll finds

Two thirds of Gibraltar’s customs officers reported low morale and over half said they had witnessed bullying or harassment in the department, according to a poll conducted by the white-collar union GGCA.

The poll also found many officers felt unsafe in their work and suffered stress and anxiety as a result.

The same poll found that most customs officers doubted that management at HM Customs (Gibraltar) would handle an investigation into a bullying complaint effectively and transparently.

The survey was conducted by the GGCA last October but has been released now against the backdrop of heightened tension between the government and unions on a number of different fronts.

It comes too after an unrelated poll of officer in the Royal Gibraltar Police also pointed to issues of morale in the force.

The GGCA’s membership in HM Customs accounts for some 96% of the entire organisation, which has some 200 staff members. The poll was outsourced to a third party and was conducted anonymously.
Key findings of the survey included:

- 92% of the membership completed the survey.

- 92% of the membership joined the Customs Department with a view to make a career out of it.

- Over 50% of the membership is not satisfied with respect to recognition received for work completed as no feedback is given to work done.

- 65% of the members perceive the morale level within the Department low.
Almost 34% of the membership has been a victim of bullying or victimisation and nearly 50% of the members have witnessed bullying/victimisation in the Customs Department.

- 80% of the membership are aware of the Bullying at Work Policy and grievance procedure but have not reported incidents of this nature, primarily because 65% have fear of reprisals.

- 66% of the membership stated that the pay scales amongst each rank and its supposed equitable distribution is unfair. This is whereby a Customs Officer takes 12 years to reach his maximum pay scale, an Executive Customs Officer takes nine years to reach his maximum pay scale, a Senior Customs officer takes eight years to reach his maximum pay scale, an Assistant Collector takes four years to reach his maximum scale and the Collector of Customs has no pay scale (therefore, on appointment, will go immediately onto a maximum pay scale).

- 50% of the Customs employees’ membership is not satisfied with the current manning levels and 41% of the membership feels unsafe carrying operational duties. In contrast, 25% were neutral and 25% were satisfied with the current manning levels.

- 48% of the Customs membership are suffering or have suffered work related stress, anxiety (mental health issues).

- 75% of Customs employees GGCA membership are not satisfied with regards to the level of forward planning in relation to setting up departmental aims and objectives.

- 60% of the membership within the department feels unsatisfied of the level of welfare and aftercare provided to the officers by the Customs Department.

- 85% of the Customs Department GGCA membership feels that career opportunities are not link to experience/qualifications.

- 69% of the Customs workforce GGCA membership is not satisfied with the level of training within the Department and 50% feel that the allocation of available training courses within the Department is unfair. Furthermore, 56% agrees that the posting you are appointed within a particular section of the Department has an impact on the available courses you can take locally or abroad.

“The GGCA is very much concerned about these alarming statistics which is affecting their membership, [whose work] is in the public interest, as the officers are in the frontline in the fight against the importation of drugs and prohibited imports,” the union said.

“This is also the organisation that significantly contributes to our pillars of our economy through the collection of duty.”

HM Customs’ senior management has been informed of the outcome of the survey and the union has requested a meeting.

“Unfortunately, they have been unable to meet with the GGCA Committee until now, where the GGCA is scheduled to meet with management on the 30th January 2019 for an in-depth discussion on the findings,” the union said.

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