General Manager of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) Bashir Mohammed said if bus drivers are willing to work on public holidays for the standard rate rather than triple time pay, the company might resume the service.
The PTSC recently announced that it would suspend the service because of the costs.
However, Mohammed said he is willing to meet with two unions representing 619 bus drivers to come up with a plan to resume the bus service on holidays.
He was responding to recommendations from the unions four days after drivers staged a protest at PTSC headquarters in Port-of-Spain.
Paul Smith, vice president of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) said the drivers were not consulted before the decision was taken and accused PTSC officials of not meeting and treating them in good faith.
Yesterday, Mohammed defended PTSC’s decision to discontinue its service on holidays because of the high cost it had been incurring.
“It really was not translating to anything beneficial to the population of Trinidad and Tobago. All we are trying to do is ensure we spend the Government’s monies wisely and make the right business decisions,” he said in an interview at his Port-of-Spain office.
Mohammed said the cost of operating the service and the number of commuters who use PTSC buses on public holidays meant that it was not economically viable.
He said for the Labour Day public holiday PTSC transported just 982 commuters compared to its estimated daily ridership of 27,000.
He said many of these commuters are pensioners who access free public transportation using their identification cards.
Mohammed said when PTSC runs an hour-long service on frequency for selected routes it costs $124,000 per day.
The company is heavily subsidised by the Government and generates little revenue from its services provided. He said to operate on a holiday, an estimated 44 drivers are paid triple time and rostered to work on a costly shift system.
PTSC has 1,000 workers exclusive of 619 bus drivers, some of whom are represented by the Public Services Association and TIWU. Mohammed said the unions have not been participating in PTSC’s weekly meetings.
“We have been writing them and they have not been showing up at meetings. Only recently they have now come out and said yes they are willing to meet,” he said.
One meeting was held last Thursday and another is due today.
“So I anticipate moving forward they will come back to the table and have these open dialogue with management so we can better manage these particular issues,” Mohammed said.
He said the unions have been pushing for the drivers to work on holidays.
Calls for comments from PSA president Watson Duke’s went unanswered while a message left at Smith’s TIWU office was not returned.