80.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 3, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesV.I. VITRAN GAME PLAN: PRIVATIZING, NO REHIRING

V.I. VITRAN GAME PLAN: PRIVATIZING, NO REHIRING

Public Works Commissioner Harold Thompson said Wednesday he has been directed to "begin the process of privatizing the Vitran public transit system." Describing the system as being in critical condition, he said the word he has received from the "highest level of government" is that Public Works should no longer manage the mass transit system.
Private sector operation of the territory's mass transit is nothing new. Mannassah Bus Lines ran it for years. More recently, a stateside company, Laidlaw, was contracted to run the buses on St. Thomas while another off-island company, PeterPan, did the same on St. Croix.
Thompson, speaking on WTJX television's "Face to Face" program Wednesday night, told guest host Katrina White-Comissiong he is optimistic that private management will work this time. He said that privatization "worked for several years prior to its demise on St. Thomas in the mid-1990s." Problems in securing its annual subsidy from the government led to the contractor pulling out, forcing Public Works to assume responsibility for operating Vitran. Three years ago, bus service was instituted on St. John as well.
Thompson, Government House chief labor negotiator Karen Andrews and union bosses Luis "Tito" Morales and Ralph Mandrew all took part in the program. Labor and management clashed over issues including the laying off of 62 employees May 11 because of "economic conditions" and the government's refusal to pay a differential to employees who live on St. Thomas but are assigned to operate buses on St. John, since all St. John drivers, being relatively recent hires, were laid off.
The layoffs – of maintenance and office personnel as well as drivers – effectively cut Vitran service in half. The number of buses running was reduced on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.
Andrews had said previously that the initial $600,000 the Senate appropriated to bail Vitran out was going to pay outstanding debts, not rehire laid-off workers. Thompson indicated on the Channel 12 program that $1 million more approved by the Legislature this week specifically for Vitran rehirings will also be used to maintain the system at the current level through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
"With the appropriation," he said, "we have the funding to get through the year." Asked directly whether any of the employees would be rehired, he was noncommittal. "We are looking at operating the system at the current levels in this fiscal year and in the upcoming year, for which budgets are now being prepared," was all he said.
Andrews challenged union leaders'assertions that the funds allocated by the Senate were to rehire workers. "The law simply said $600,000 for public transportation," she stated. "It did not specifically say the monies were to return employees." She said the funds have been factored into Vitran operations at the reduced level of service. "We have done the best we can to sustain the operation at the reduced level," she said.
The bill passed by the Senate this week allocating the $1 million specifies in no uncertain terms that its purpose is to rehire laid-off drivers and hire new drivers, including drivers for the separate bus service Vitran provides for the disabled in accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,757FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Public Works Commissioner Harold Thompson said Wednesday he has been directed to "begin the process of privatizing the Vitran public transit system." Describing the system as being in critical condition, he said the word he has received from the "highest level of government" is that Public Works should no longer manage the mass transit system.
Private sector operation of the territory's mass transit is nothing new. Mannassah Bus Lines ran it for years. More recently, a stateside company, Laidlaw, was contracted to run the buses on St. Thomas while another off-island company, PeterPan, did the same on St. Croix.
Thompson, speaking on WTJX television's "Face to Face" program Wednesday night, told guest host Katrina White-Comissiong he is optimistic that private management will work this time. He said that privatization "worked for several years prior to its demise on St. Thomas in the mid-1990s." Problems in securing its annual subsidy from the government led to the contractor pulling out, forcing Public Works to assume responsibility for operating Vitran. Three years ago, bus service was instituted on St. John as well.
Thompson, Government House chief labor negotiator Karen Andrews and union bosses Luis "Tito" Morales and Ralph Mandrew all took part in the program. Labor and management clashed over issues including the laying off of 62 employees May 11 because of "economic conditions" and the government's refusal to pay a differential to employees who live on St. Thomas but are assigned to operate buses on St. John, since all St. John drivers, being relatively recent hires, were laid off.
The layoffs – of maintenance and office personnel as well as drivers – effectively cut Vitran service in half. The number of buses running was reduced on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.
Andrews had said previously that the initial $600,000 the Senate appropriated to bail Vitran out was going to pay outstanding debts, not rehire laid-off workers. Thompson indicated on the Channel 12 program that $1 million more approved by the Legislature this week specifically for Vitran rehirings will also be used to maintain the system at the current level through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
"With the appropriation," he said, "we have the funding to get through the year." Asked directly whether any of the employees would be rehired, he was noncommittal. "We are looking at operating the system at the current levels in this fiscal year and in the upcoming year, for which budgets are now being prepared," was all he said.
Andrews challenged union leaders'assertions that the funds allocated by the Senate were to rehire workers. "The law simply said $600,000 for public transportation," she stated. "It did not specifically say the monies were to return employees." She said the funds have been factored into Vitran operations at the reduced level of service. "We have done the best we can to sustain the operation at the reduced level," she said.
The bill passed by the Senate this week allocating the $1 million specifies in no uncertain terms that its purpose is to rehire laid-off drivers and hire new drivers, including drivers for the separate bus service Vitran provides for the disabled in accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.