School bus drivers threaten shutdown

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

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