Maxi operators in Tobago have taken legal action against the Public Transport Service Corporation and the Division of Education Innovation and Energy for what they have described as unreasonable and unfair employment contracts.
But officials of the Tobago House of Assembly and PTSC seem to have opposing positions on the matter.
The group totalling thirty-one owners is being collectively represented by Attorney Janelle Ramsaroop of Martin A George and Company who said many of the owners have been engaged for more than twenty years, and during that period there has been no issue until the PTSC stepped in.
“The new contract now seeks to expel the services of those who are at the age of 60 and that will also be detrimental to those maxi concessionaires who are over the age of 60.”
The new contract being proposed by the PTSC, according to Ramsaroop, is only for a term of two years. And the drivers, she said, find the offer unfair “after operating for something like thirty- two years of operating peacefully with the division of Education.”
This is however not the first time the maxi operators have taken action as the group protested back in August 2017.
Back then the drivers refused to transport school children at the start of the new school term and called on the Division of Education to improve accounting systems, as payments were being received continuously late.
Similar action was taken in November 2019, when the Tobago maxi operators showed solidarity with their Trinidad counterparts when payments were three months overdue.
When asked to comment on the issue, Secretary in the Division of Education Innovation and Energy Kelvin Charles said that “there is no new arrangement and the situation is currently being reviewed.” However, chairman of the PTSC Edwin Gooding said steps must be taken to regularize the operations in order to protect drivers and students.
“We have been trying since I’ve been here for the last three years with Tobagonian drivers because remember they are transporting peoples’ children and we feel we need to have some agreement with them and they have always objected to it.”
Gooding said there is no “malintent” behind the new arrangement as the operators in Trinidad have a similar arrangement. He said the board of directors was advised to streamline operations by procuring the services of drivers individually and as far as he is aware the age limit required for the position is 65.
The PTSC board chairman said while he hasn’t officially seen the documents related to the legal action, he isn’t sure what is going to happen now since schools are closed and there are no children to transport.