The National Omnibus Association (NOBA) has declined to join with the Teachers’ Union to form a united front in their efforts to get the government to respond favourably to their respective demands.
The Teachers’ Union and their Public Service Union (PSU) counterparts have demanded that the government pay public sector workers one month’s salary, tax-free, in lieu of salary increases since 2011.
NOBA is demanding that the government fix the roads, reconsider their proposal about the public transportation system and provide a quick route out of Kingstown from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on busy days.
NOBA has threatened to strike on Oct. 12 if its demands are not met.
President of NOBA, Anthony “Code Red” Bacchus told I-Witness News on Monday that at their monthly meeting on Sunday, the Teachers Union suggested that the unions merge forces.
Responding to comments from some segments of the population that NOBA was being political, Bacchus told I-Witness News that his organisation just wants to see the issues affecting van drivers addressed.
“We are not being political. It is just that these issues have been going on for a long time. The proposal has been put in, it has nothing to do with politics; it just has to do with the betterment of the transportation system,” Bacchus said.
Bacchus said many persons are trying to make NOBA’s demands political.
“A lot of people will like to see us strike just to shut the government down because of their political agenda,” he said.
He said that the Teachers’ Union asked for NOBA’s support.
“But according to the members, we should leave them alone. Some agreed, some disagreed; because we don’t want to make anything political to say we are going up against the government for politics or anything,” Bacchus told I-Witness News.
“These are issues we have for a long time: the roads, the proposal, the quick route. This has nothing to do with politics. It’s just that t arise during this time because what I recognise with the lumber and so forth that was there.”
The government has recently ordered some EC$4.5 million in building material that it says will be used in its housing programmes, including for distribution to victims of natural disasters, and the poor.
But with general elections expected before year-end, some persons have said that the building materials will be used to sway voters, noting that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had said in 2009 that some persons voted down proposed changes to the nation’s Constitution because they did not get building material.
“But I spoke to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister told me that those lumber haven’t been paid for and so forth.
“Then again, I don’t have any concrete evidence that they were paid for and they are going to be distributed for political reasons. So, I cannot go on that,” Bacchus told I-Witness News.
“We have nothing to do with anything political,“ Bacchus said.
Sunday’s meeting mandated the leadership of NOBA to meet with Commissioner of Police Michael Charles and Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport, Sen. Francis.
“We have some demands we are going to put forward and give them a deadline for Wednesday at 10 a.m.
“We have some critical roads we want them to address, for instance. We want them to address the proposal we put in with the transport, also, we want a quick route out of Kingstown during the busy days, say between 4 and 6 p.m. so that the people won’t have to walk to Arnos Vale and the van turning back in Arnos Vale and causing a problem,” Bacchus said.
He told I-Witness News that NOBA want the authorities to give them a trial run to see how the quick route would affect the serious traffic congestion between Kingstown and Arnos vale at rush hour.
“On the busy days, the vans have to line up in traffic and it takes a long time for them to get back in town. This is why there is a build-up on Friday and so forth, and it is very inconvenient for the travelling public,” he told I-Witness News.
“We are giving them those demands this morning and the deadline will be Wednesday,” Bacchus said, adding that he wants to brief the media on the organisation’s next step ahead of Friday’s cycle of the print media.