The United Workers Party (UWP) condemns the government on its recent dismissal of over 40 bus drivers contracted with the Ministry of Education through the School Transportation Subsidy Program – a program which was reinstated under the United Workers Party Administration in September 2007 after it was unceremoniously terminated by the last SLP-Administration.
The UWP is concerned about the unfair dismissal of the school bus drivers through a botched process, with no clear indicators of the criteria used by the Ministry of Education to hire their replacements. This action by the Ministry, headed by Dr. Hon. Robert Lewis, is a clear contradiction of the SLP’s promise of transparency and accountability.
The UWP understands that contracts were taken away from certain drivers who had been employed in the program for over four years, and have been awarded to persons who do not even own buses. This has resulted in several students being left stranded during this first week of school, in many instances having to find other means of transportation, such as hiking rides to and from school from unknown individuals. In other instances students have had to squeeze into other contracted buses, causing serious violation of the island’s traffic laws on the number of passengers stipulated for public transportation vehicles.
The UWP is aware that some of the drivers who have been terminated from the School Transportation Subsidy Program currently have loans on their vehicles, and for many of them, this was their only source of income. The UWP views this action by the government as callous, and a very far cry from the SLP’s campaign promise of “Better days”, especially at a time when the Prime Minister is calling on citizens to tighten their belts.
Even in situations where Ministry of Education officials had expressed absolute satisfaction with the conduct, level of organization and service provided by drivers in certain school zones, these very drivers are now surprised to learn that they too have had their contracts unceremoniously terminated. In the community of Bouton, in Soufriere, the UWP understands that a particular driver, who has been transporting students from that community for almost 20 years, has had his contract terminated, without reason, by the Ministry of Education.
The United Workers Party calls on the Minister for Education, Dr. Robert Lewis, to come forward and explain the selection process used for hiring the new drivers, and to further explain: how and why it is, that individuals who do not currently own buses were able to secure contracts away from persons who; not only own buses, but were already employed in the School Transportation Subsidy Program.