Marking the one-year death anniversary of their colleague who was gunned down at his workplace, staff from the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) on Monday staged a placard protest, calling for a reliable bus fleet and a safer work environment.
Standing outside of the PTSC bus terminal at Kings Wharf, San Fernando Monday, the workers called for a meeting with Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan.
Branch secretary of the Transport and Industrial Workers Trade Union Ryan Ramdath said since PTSC painter Carlos Samuel was gunned down outside the corporation’s garage at Lady Hailes Avenue on August 20 last year, PTSC's management has not repaired the broken down fence.
"Anyone can walk in here. PTSC says they are going to move the facility but when? In the meantime, we are exposed. People are coming into the compound and robbing workers and stealing the batteries.
This place is infested with mosquitoes and rats," Ramdath said.
He also said that bus drivers were placing their lives at risk because many of the PTSC's 350 bus fleet were defective.
"The buses are shutting down and PTSC is not buying sufficient parts. They are making a utilization run out of 35 buses on a daily basis and 90 per cent of the buses are defective. We need new vehicles, new parts and we are not getting that," Ramdath said.
He also said several routes had to be abandoned because there were insufficient buses to service the routes.
"At least 15 areas are affected. People in Tabaquite, Mayo, Union Hall and Woodland are suffering because there are no more buses working in these areas. The San Fernando to Chaguanas route is at a standstill," Ramdath added.
Charlton Felician, shop steward from the TIWU's Port of Spain branch said while PTSC's management was ordering parts, there was confusion because there were more than 29 makes and models of buses in the existing fleet.
He also said that there was a severe shortage of workers in the garage and body shop, where Samuel was killed.
"The mechanics are short by 15 workers and the body shop is short of 18 workers. We have 16 people in the body shop and 13 in the mechanics' department. Some of them working 15 and 16 years and they were never regularized," Felician said.
Another worker Lester Lake said those bus drivers who speak up about the issues are usually victimized.
"They would send us in another area to work if we speak up. Bus drivers not supposed to be frustrated when they are at work but they frustrate us," Lake added.
PTSC's manager of the south branch Shawn Harris declined to comment and referred questions to Actg general manager Davis Ragoonanan.
However, he was engaged in a meeting and could not respond.
Contacted Monday, Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said he has no information on the bus drivers' concerns.
"Those are matters related to the internal management of PTSC that the chairman can speak about," Sinanan said.
Asked whether he was willing to meet with the workers, Sinanan said, " I have no information on this.
Once a report comes in from the Board. I will give it consideration." However, Ramdath subsequently said that PTSC's last board was disbanded and the company was currently functioning without a Board.
- by Radhica De Silva