The Maxi-Taxi Association of School Transport Concessionaires has warned parents that if the government fails to pay school maxi-taxi drivers $15 million owed to them, they are the ones who may soon have to dish out additional dollars to transport their children to school.
Association president Rodney Ramlogan, along with other drivers, protested outside the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) garage along Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando yesterday.
He said it was a shame that he and his members had to be protesting for payments for the last three years.
Ramlogan said the failure of the Ministry of Education to settle outstanding payments was affecting the lives of 320 members and their families.
While they suffer, he said the government was legislating pension increases for themselves.
The drivers parked maxi-taxis along the waterfront, waving placards and chanting “We want we money right now.”
Ramlogan said, “We will stop working and the education system will be in jeopardy again. If we stop working now and we don’t get any relief, from September we are not going to come back out to work”.
He added, “All I am asking again is for some level of honesty because today we see the government has the money to process these Venezuelans, they have money to ask for an increase.
They are asking for an increase in pension, we are asking to be paid for what we have worked for”.
The drivers said that they have not been paid for the last three months and despite several meetings with PTSC and the Ministry of Education to negotiate a payment structure, their bank accounts are still empty.
Maxi-taxi driver Cindy Mohammed said that they are struggling to put food on their tables and their bills are in arrears.
She said that while people are running to this country because of trouble in theirs, Trinidadians are struggling as well because of issues like hers.
Ramlogan said that he spoke with officials from the Ministry on Monday who said that payment for four fortnights was processed.
However, there was no one to cut a cheque.
Ramlogan said that members have had to protest to get paid for the past three years and they were fed up.
He called on Education Minister Anthony Garcia to say whether his ministry can afford to pay the drivers.
“All I ask is for some level of honesty from the Ministry of Education. If you know you cannot pay us, do not continue to ask us to provide a service because while the government is trying to look good, we are suffering. It is three months now and the thing is, they keep paying us little by little so the banks basically take most of the money to pay instalments so we are back to square one.”
He said the Ministry also owed $2 million from 2018.
Education Ministers Anthony Garcia said that it was only last week that the Ministry received invoices to pay the drivers. Garcia said that it is only when invoices are received that it can be processed.
He said the invoices are being processed, this week and when completed, a request for funds will be made to the Ministry of Finance.
The minister was hopeful that the drivers will get their money next week.
Reporter: Kevon Felmine