AMTSTC president, Rodney Ramlogan, said maxi taxi drivers’ children have also been affected by the delay in paying $12 million for services rendered in May, June and during the first two weeks of July.
“I don’t know how the minister could say that. He’s making it seem like only schoolchildren were affected but we have children too. Up to now, we can’t even afford to buy school books and uniforms to send them to school, so I don’t know how (Garcia) could say we using schoolchildren as pawns.” Ramlogan was speaking to Newsday yesterday about how a decision by members to withhold their services yesterday left a reported 30,000 primary and secondary school students stranded on the first day of the new school year. However this was disputed by the ministry, which cited data from School Supervisors in the seven education districts across Trinidad.
Chief Education Officer, Harrilal Seecharan, said a check of Government and Government- assisted schools revealed that “ten primary schools and 14 secondary schools were negatively impacted to some extent because of the disruption in the service.
In some cases, several maxi taxi concessionaires doubled up (to ensure affected students get to school).” Seecharan was speaking yesterday during a press conference at the Education Ministry’s head office, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, where Education Minister, Anthony Garcia, criticised the association’s actions.
“While I have absolutely no problem with any group of workers withholding their services; because that is their right, always remember that we must not use our children as pawns...Those maxi taxi drivers, if they had entered into discussions with me last night (Sunday), they would have been told that today (yesterday), a cheque for in excess of TT $6 million was forthcoming and later on this week, the remaining sum of (just under) $5 million would have been paid to them.
There was absolutely no need, as far as I see it, to take the type of action that was taken,” Garcia declared.
Management of the school bus system, including payments to drivers, is handled by the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC). That’s why the ministry issues cheques to the PTSC and not directly to the AMTSTC.
Garcia recalled that “sometime last week or the week before, we were able to give PTSC $1 million as part payment to maxi taxi drivers.
Today (yesterday); and this is what I wanted to discuss with (Ramlogan), we made available to PTSC in excess of $6 million; so that is in excess of $7 million. “ The minister added that he was informed “by our Permanent Secretary that later this week,” the remaining sum of just under $5 million will be paid.
This news did not appease the association. Ramlogan told Newsday that it’s not simply about keeping their word to withhold service until full payment is received. “Financially we can’t afford to go out to work.”