Education Minister Anthony Garcia has been given until the end of today to meet with officials of the Maxi-Taxi School Transport Concessionaires Association to address the issue of outstanding payments owed to them.
Failing this, President Rodney Ramlogan has warned that thousands of primary and secondary school students may be a no-show on Monday as the usual service may be with-held.
And with national exams scheduled to begin on Monday, Ramlogan said there could be a major disruption if the minister failed to respond to them within the next 24 hours.
Addressing reporters following an hour-long meeting with Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and Route Two Maxi Taxi Association President Linus Phillip at City Gate, Port-of-Spain earlier - Ramlogan challenged Garcia to “man up” and respond in a timely manner.
He said despite drivers staying away from work this morning - a move which led to students in certain areas unable to attend classes as normal - the Association continued to be treated with disdain.
He said similar action earlier this week failed to get them a hearing from the relevant authorities.
As a result, the drivers intensified the action today and warned that Monday was too late for discussions to take place.
Ramlogan said, “I am urging the Minister of Education to reach out to us to have some kind of dialogue because nothing is cast in stone as to what we are going to do next, if we will continue the action or not.”
One hour before Sinanan arrived at the Public Transport Services Corporation (PTSC) compound, close to 50 members of Maxi-Taxi School Transport Concessionaires Association gathered outside the main entrance, calling for an audience with PTSC’s General Manager Bashir Mohammed.
Even though Mohammed promised to come out and speak with officials, he failed to emerge until Sinanan’s appearance.
Sinanan explained that while this was an issue which did not fall under his jurisdiction, he was concerned about the adverse consequences to the nation’s students.
Ramlogan said, “Exams are due to start on Monday and we are not going to promise anything on Monday.”
“I am extending an olive branch to the Minister of Education again, please meet with us and let’s move forward.”
Acknowledging the drivers’ concerns were valid, Sinanan promised to facilitate inter-ministerial discussions in order to resolve the issue.
He referenced the State’s precarious financial position as he said all ministries had been affected by having to wait for releases with respect to services being rendered by private entities and persons.
In a response, officials at the Ministry of Education confirmed that over $4 million had been paid via three cheques, to drivers this week. However, they admitted that invoices were still being processed at this time.
- Anna-Lisa Paul