NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Former school bus drivers in Grand Bahama were up-in-arms on Monday morning, following alleged premature cancellations of their contracts which reportedly had another two-years before they were due to expire.
The disgruntled drivers staged a protest and have called the contract cancellations a “political move,” according to Kevin Ferguson, former bus driver.
Ferguson said drivers on Grand Bahama suffered two major blows; the first was that their contracts were unceremoniously terminated and the second blow was that the contracts were awarded to persons who do not own buses.
He asserted that government terminated drivers’ contracts in order to give them to Free National Movement (FNM) supporters.
“Students are all over the streets waiting for bus drivers to pick them up, but they are now being picked up in all types of vehicles now trying to get them to school,” Ferguson complained.
“These buses were ready and are still ready and their contracts were taken from them prematurely. It’s unjust and it is wrong and I blame the prime minister who is responsible for appointing a minister of education who has dropped the ball over and over again.”
Ferguson said adding insult to injury, the new drivers who do not have any busses, have attempted to lease buses from former contract holders.
“Even in Abaco as late as last night, one of the drivers who they gave the contract to went to Fritz Bootle, who they took the contract from, and asked him to assist them in driving their route this morning,” Ferguson noted.
“He told them, ‘absolutely not.’
“They also called Mr. Rolle, the chief councilor in Bimini, and told him that he should continue his route. Then this morning he did his route then another driver came up and told him that he doesn’t have the contract anymore. What kind of nonsense is that?”
Another former bus driver, Grace Maycock, has called for Lloyd to intervene.
“They have persons here who end up with two contracts and they don’t even have a bus, they don’t even know what to do. Upwards until 11:00 a.m. on Saturday they were making calls to find these people to pick up kids this morning,” Maycock said.
Fred Mitchell, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman commenting on the issues involving the Grand Bahama bus drivers on Monday said that it was “heart wrenching,” to hear their stories of hardship.
Mitchell accused government of unfair “tribalism,” and called the act “naked political victimization, bad management and anti-democratic.”
Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama, responded to the “politicized,” comments made Monday.
“The complaint from a few persons whose bus contracts were lawfully terminated have absolutely no merit. Ministry of Education has stated that these contracts were terminated in accordance with the contract,” he said.
“We should not be interjecting politics in our schools, we all want the best for our students and should keep politics out of the education system.
“We must not be distracted by these political arguments that have no merit. We will remain focused on providing quality education for our children. Today was a blatant attempt to distract the public from what the Government is actually accomplishing.”
Thompson also shot down assertions that student pick-up on Grand Bahama was not negatively impacted.
“Ministry of Education officials Ivan Butler has stated that ‘no school in the West Grand Bahama District experienced any major difficulty as related to the pick-up and drop off of school children this morning,’” Thompson noted.
“In addition, Ms Yvonne Ward has reported similar views with one exception where a new bus driver had to be introduced to students. This matter was quickly resolved by the Principal. She reported that all other schools that reported to her that pick-ups proceeded with no incidents.”