BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, February 22, 2017 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris says the Team Unity Government welcomes the opportunity to dialogue with representatives of the different bus associations in an attempt to find solutions to the various concerns being raised.
Reports surfaced in the media earlier this week stating that passenger bus drivers were on Monday, February 20, contemplating an island-wide strike in an attempt to have their concerns addressed. That strike was later called off following a meeting amongst the operators the night before.
Prime Minister Harris, speaking at the “Good Governance and Accountability for Prosperity” town hall meeting on Tuesday, February 22, 2017, said there is a procedure the bus drivers must follow.
“There is a board (Traffic Safety and Public Service Transport Board). You have to go and talk to the people on the board, convince them of the rightness of your position. The board will then refer it to the minister; the minister’s duty is to bring it to the Cabinet so a policy could be formed. So we are welcoming the opportunity to meet without prejudging and each side puts its case and like reasonable people I am sure we will reach an agreement,” the prime minister said.
Among the concerns expressed by the omnibus drivers are the issuance of new license plate numbers for hire buses and the implementation of an after midnight fare. However, Dr. Harris stated that these concerns must be properly discussed among the relevant stakeholders in order to prevent any unnecessary burden on the ordinary people.
Minister responsible for Public Infrastructure, the Honourable Ian Patches Liburd said the government is fully aware “of the vital role the bus and taxi owners and drivers are playing in this country.”
He said the current administration, through the Traffic Safety and Public Service Transport Board, will continue to improve the operations of the bus drivers, starting with the construction of an east line bus terminal.
“Your Team Unity Administration has allocated some six million dollars ($6,000,000) to fund the construction of a brand new modern facility for the east line bus terminal in Basseterre,” the minister stated, noting that phase two will see monies spent as well on the improvement of the bus terminal for the west line bus services.
In relation to the issuance of new license plate numbers for hire buses, Minister Liburd said “there was a cap on buses way back in 2005, long before our time but the former administration in 2005 when the sugar industry was closed, removed the cap, removed the cap to create enterprises that the former sugar workers can embark upon. That cap was not removed by this administration. We met that cap and from that cap I can tell you issues that the board will have to deal with are issues like one bus owner having five buses, another having three, some having two and trying to exclude those who want to come into the trade and bea bonafide bus driver and we even wonder as to whether a cap is constitutionally correct.”
The minister said all concerns raised by the passenger bus drivers will be addressed through proper consultation by the relevant authorities.