Categorized | Local, News

School bus system out-sourcing – part of the cutbacks?

At the end of September, Montserrat school bus system is expected to be outsourced to private operators, acting Permanent Secretary (PS) Mr. Glenn Francis confirmed during an interview with The Montserrat Reporter on Tuesday.

The PS was corroborating statements from the Honourable Premier, Mr. Rueben T Meade which he made during a radio broadcast last week Wednesday.

According to the PS, the Ministry is presently in discussion with local bus operators to outsource the school bus service. He also assures that the change will not affect the present bus fees.

Mr. Francis disclosed that all the school bus drivers and conductresses will be reabsorbed into the Government system in areas where their skills will be best utilized. He revealed that they have identified and are considering, several areas where these individuals can be placed.

He said the Ministry had met with workers employed under the bus system to discuss their repositioning in Government and have received positive responses from them.

Last week the Premier announced Government’s plans to out-source several Government services to the private sector. He identified the school bus service, as one such service at the forefront to be outsourced.  He said, “We’re trying to improve the efficiencies in certain services, and the school bus is one that has been targeted. We initially had discussions of allowing the current school bus drivers to run the business, then we recognized that this may not be the best way to go.”

He said, “We had a sufficient offer from one operator to provide the service to the government of Montserrat at the fee stipulated in the request for proposals, and that is being discussed with that particular operator. We would have had meetings with the education officials, some members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to discuss the issue, because it’s pointless going to the parents before you have something concrete to sell to them. When Government make a decision as to who will get the out-sourcing of the school buses, before the contract is signed we will have a public consultation with the parents.”

“Now the question is being raised; what will happen to the school bus drivers?  We would have had discussions with them in terms of their re-absorption in the system; where we have a shortage of skills which they have…In terms of the conductresses, similarly they are being looked after. So this is not to create unemployment amongst the persons who are currently employed, but to create efficiencies. So there will be no increase cost to the parents for school busing,” according to the Premier.

However, Opposition Leader Mr. Donald Romeo believes, Government may be concealing job-cuts as out-sourcing.

Mr. Romeo contended that, “In May this year cuts to Government were said to happen September…these cuts were set to happen long before the promise steps were set to happen to get the economy moving so people can have viable lasting jobs…Just like how the recent increase in import changes were disguised as simplifications, we have to now ask; has our Government now agreed to job cuts disguised as out-sourcing?”

He said, “School busing is to be outsourced and just days before school reopens, parents have no idea what it will cost in the future to send their children on the school bus.”

The leader revealed, “On the other hand I’m told that bus drivers and conductors have been assured that despite the outsourcing they will still have a job in September. When I called the Ministry on the other hand, to verify this, I was told that they are unable to get proof of the planed job placements for bus drivers, conductors and others,” he said.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

At the end of September, Montserrat school bus system is expected to be outsourced to private operators, acting Permanent Secretary (PS) Mr. Glenn Francis confirmed during an interview with The Montserrat Reporter on Tuesday.

The PS was corroborating statements from the Honourable Premier, Mr. Rueben T Meade which he made during a radio broadcast last week Wednesday.

According to the PS, the Ministry is presently in discussion with local bus operators to outsource the school bus service. He also assures that the change will not affect the present bus fees.

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Mr. Francis disclosed that all the school bus drivers and conductresses will be reabsorbed into the Government system in areas where their skills will be best utilized. He revealed that they have identified and are considering, several areas where these individuals can be placed.

He said the Ministry had met with workers employed under the bus system to discuss their repositioning in Government and have received positive responses from them.

Last week the Premier announced Government’s plans to out-source several Government services to the private sector. He identified the school bus service, as one such service at the forefront to be outsourced.  He said, “We’re trying to improve the efficiencies in certain services, and the school bus is one that has been targeted. We initially had discussions of allowing the current school bus drivers to run the business, then we recognized that this may not be the best way to go.”

He said, “We had a sufficient offer from one operator to provide the service to the government of Montserrat at the fee stipulated in the request for proposals, and that is being discussed with that particular operator. We would have had meetings with the education officials, some members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to discuss the issue, because it’s pointless going to the parents before you have something concrete to sell to them. When Government make a decision as to who will get the out-sourcing of the school buses, before the contract is signed we will have a public consultation with the parents.”

“Now the question is being raised; what will happen to the school bus drivers?  We would have had discussions with them in terms of their re-absorption in the system; where we have a shortage of skills which they have…In terms of the conductresses, similarly they are being looked after. So this is not to create unemployment amongst the persons who are currently employed, but to create efficiencies. So there will be no increase cost to the parents for school busing,” according to the Premier.

However, Opposition Leader Mr. Donald Romeo believes, Government may be concealing job-cuts as out-sourcing.

Mr. Romeo contended that, “In May this year cuts to Government were said to happen September…these cuts were set to happen long before the promise steps were set to happen to get the economy moving so people can have viable lasting jobs…Just like how the recent increase in import changes were disguised as simplifications, we have to now ask; has our Government now agreed to job cuts disguised as out-sourcing?”

He said, “School busing is to be outsourced and just days before school reopens, parents have no idea what it will cost in the future to send their children on the school bus.”

The leader revealed, “On the other hand I’m told that bus drivers and conductors have been assured that despite the outsourcing they will still have a job in September. When I called the Ministry on the other hand, to verify this, I was told that they are unable to get proof of the planed job placements for bus drivers, conductors and others,” he said.