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NOBA calls for public support of strike action

NOBA calls for public support of strike action


As the National Omni-Bus Association (NOBA) readies itself for a withdrawal of service, president Anthony ‘Code Red’ Bacchus says the proposed move is not politically motivated and he is urging all motorists to support the association’s plan of action.

Bacchus says the strike is being called {{more}}because of “deplorable road conditions” and the Government’s failure to fix them.

He called for all persons, including students and teachers, to stay at home on October 12.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, Bacchus said more attention needs to be paid to the roads, especially the secondary roads.

“We want to send a clear peaceful message that we want to get the secondary roads fixed. The secondary roads, which the vans have to go to take the passengers to their homes are causing a lot of damage to the vans,” Bacchus said via telephone.

Maintaining that the call to strike is not politically motivated, Bacchus said the money the Government is spending to purchase building materials to be distributed to persons can be used to fix the roads.

“When you see the type of money being spent, we don’t know if it’s taxpayers’ money or we don’t know if it’s campaign money, but that money could be put in the road to help fix them. The roads are being neglected,” he said.

According to the NOBA head, strike action has been threatened many times in the past, but that has been met with disrespect. He added that his organization has also made several suggestions to the Government for a more effective transportation system, but their cries have fallen on deaf ears.

“It’s just no respect. They don’t want to fix the roads. It’s just no respect. It is an ongoing thing and the roads are being left just so. We don’t get no subsidy. We don’t get nothing. All we get is hard times where we have to spend money to repair the vans to keep going.

In February this year, NOBA called off threatened strike action after Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works Julian Francis agreed that the roads in the Gomea/Belair area would be fixed.

Bacchus said he has attempted to contact Francis “many times” and Francis has only responded once, sometime before the opening of the new academic year in September.

“We asked him to try to fix a couple of holes before school open and nothing. He didn’t do anything. The roads are bad in Glen going over by the Community College. The van drivers are complaining,” he said.

Bacchus said the drivers wanted to take strike action at that time, but he was the one who convinced them not to, in the hope that some resolution would be brought to the matter.

“If the members now decide they want to take action, there’s nothing I could do but leave them,”he stated.

However, Francis, speaking on Star Radio Tuesday night, said he only became aware of the issue on Monday this week and he has never been contacted by NOBA on the matter, something he says he finds strange.

“NOBA and I have had numerous discussions. We have a long track record. At no time whatsoever has Mr Bacchus spoken to me or tried to get in touch with me. I pass ‘Code Red’ on the road every day,” he said.

Francis said he met with Bacchus on three separate occasions over the last three months and every time they met, Bacchus would tell him that he needs to speak with him on certain matters.

“That is all that I have from ‘Code Red’ to date. There’s been no contact with me. ‘Code Red’ has my personal telephone number. He has called me on it on many occasions.”

Francis admitted that there are roads in the country that need attention and plans have already been put in place to continue the road maintenance programme.

According to the minister, $25 million is being spent on the rehabilitation of the Leeward Highway and he said $140 million has already been spent upgrading the Windward Highway, adding that other road rehabilitation is being done throughout the country.

“Right now, there’s a significant road repair project going on from Belmont tank down to Crick Corner with a magnificent roundabout being built there.

Francis also mentioned that since June, two asphalt “zippers” have been brought in to repair asphalt roads.

“The machine pulverizes the asphalt and turns it back into aggregate. We did the trial runs on the road from Calliaqua straight up to Belmont… We have paved hot mix asphalt on top of them. All of them are not complete.

“… The Ministry has a view of all of the roads in the country and the Ministry is therefore in a better position to judge which is worse than which and the road repair programme that we have ongoing now is to tackle the worst set of roads down to the not so bad roads,” Francis explained.

The minister said the storms that affected SVG since 2010 have been “disastrous” on the country’s infrastructure and further disclosed that significant resources that were intended for road repairs had to be diverted to the restoration of “creature comforts”.

Francis described Bacchus’ claim of the Government using money to import materials instead of fixing the roads as “a very insensitive” statement to be made by him.

“In between all of this, there are members of NOBA who are looking after their individual interest. When they have their personal things they want to settle, they will find me and they will get their matters settled.

“But when you tell me you are going to strike because Government is bringing in materials for persons and he terms it, I believe, as giving away. It is not a matter of giving away materials; persons in this country have suffered. If you have not suffered, I lived it.

“I have been out there in the mud and the slime and see what the storms have done in our country and this government, which is a labour government filled with compassion and love for the people of this country, has spent millions of dollars to restore people’s creature comforts…,” Francis said.

The minister, however said he is willing to meet with Bacchus to discuss the matter.

NOBA has called a meeting of its members for Sunday at 3 pm at the Haddon Hotel. (KW)