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School bus drivers demand $10m debt

Published: 
Thursday, April 26, 2018
School bus drivers block traffic along Lady Hailes Avenue during their protest outside PTSC compound, San Fernando yesterday. PICTURE RISHI RAGOONATH

Scores of school bus drivers yesterday staged a protest outside of the Public Service Transport Corporation in San Fernando over $10m in outstanding debt owed by the Government.

The protest blocked motorists and caused a massive traffic pileup along Lady Hailes Avenue.

They demanded the outstanding salaries be paid immediately and threatened to withhold their services once the Secondary Entrance Assessment examinations are completed on May 3.

President of the Maxi-Taxi Concessionaires Association, Rodney Ramlogan said more than 300 drivers transport an estimated 30,000 students on a daily basis and since December they have not been paid a cent.

“We are usually paid on a fortnightly basis by the Public Service Transport Corporation. People have been struggling to meet demands for even servicing their maxis and paying their loans. It has passed the stage of diesel and tyres and banks. Right now it’s about buying food — these guys have not been able to provide food on their tables at home,” Ramlogan said.

Since the salaries were withheld, Ramlogan said more than 40 drivers have withdrawn their services, opting to ply their vehicles for hire.

“I have asked all the drivers, especially those who transport children to primary schools, to beg, borrow or scrape the bottom of the barrel just to make sure we accomplish this next week and take the children to school to write their SEA exams. After that if we are not paid we will not work,” Ramlogan said.

He said last year there was a similar problem occurred and after the protest outside the Ministry of Education they were paid for two outstanding terms.

Another driver, Harold Codrington, said his maxi taxi insurance, which is $22,000, will come up for renewal next month.

“I don’t have money to pay. I have a daughter in University in Barbados doing law. How do you expect me to feel when she calls for me and I don’t have money to send? When I have a daughter who is at her highest level of her education, what can I tell her, that the Government don’t pay? I have to find money, borrow money, somehow to send her,” Codrington said.

He urged the Minister of Education Anthony Garcia and Minister of Finance to look into the matter.

“This is quite heart wrenching and we are not asking for handouts, we are just asking for the money that we worked for already,” Codrington said.

PTSC’s Operations manager Brian Juanette declined to comment on the protest yesterday and directed questions to general manager Charles Mitchell but he was not in office.

Head of Marketing at PTSC Sherry Ann Lee Hunte also was unavailable. Finance Minister Colm Imbert could not be reached for comment.

PAYMENTS BEING PROCESSED

The Ministry of Education has put measures in place to verify all invoices for payments to maxi taxi operators who are contracted by the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) to transport school children, according to a media statement issued yesterday.

This decision follows concerns raised by people from various quarters to carefully review and analyse all requests for payments, in order to ensure quality service and value for money.

Minister of Education Anthony Garcia says the review exercise conducted by the Ministry of Education has so far resulted in the reimbursement of approximately $ 1.7 m to the Ministry.

Garcia said the invoices for payments for January were received from the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) on April 20 and are being processed.

He said the service provide by the maxi taxi operators is valuable and the Ministry of Education will continue to work with them as a valuable stakeholder in the education sector.

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