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OBA’s Scott criticises DPT

Leah Scott (File photograph)

The shadow transport minister has slammed the Department of Public Transportation for its statements on the National Heroes Day bus service.

Leah Scott this morning called communications from the department this weekend “confusing”.

Ms Scott said: “Despite receiving reassurances that there would be no disruption in the bus service and no inconvenience to the general public in respect of the bus service on Bermuda National Heroes Day, there was no bus service.

“The DPT stated that there is a dispute ongoing between the DPT and its unionised workers, but confirmed that notwithstanding that dispute, the bus service would operate yesterday as per the holiday schedule.

“Following that statement, we learnt that due to an ‘impasse in the interpretation of overtime’, there was a risk that the bus services would not run. Bermuda Industrial Union president, Chris Furbert then said the BIU took the decision to work to rule, which meant no overtime and no bus service.”

Ms Scott said the situation demonstrated a “communication problem” within the DPT.

She said: “Both locals and our visitors were inconvenienced because of it.”

Ms Scott added: “There was an obvious disconnect between the workers and management and as a result members of our community and our guests suffered the consequences of the lack of clear direction and leadership.”

The Royal Gazette reported on Friday how multiple sources close to the dispute had said buses would be off the road for the public holiday because employees were planning to work to rule.

Government failed to respond to requests for comment for that article.

After the article published, the DPT said it wished to correct “information circulating in the community, fuelled by media” and insisted that the Monday service would run “per the published holiday schedule”.

On Sunday, the DPT issued another release admitting there was “a risk” that buses would not run, before confirming on Monday that the service was down.

Ms Scott said the bus service was “deteriorating, not improving” despite previous promises it would be bolstered from Walter Roban, Minister of Transport.

She said: “So many members of our community rely on our public transportation system to get to work, to get to the grocery store, to get home, and for their overall transportation needs. We are entering the height of our tourist season, and the majority of our guests utilise our public transportation for many reasons, including cost efficiency.”

She said that ongoing problems with the service were having an economic impact on everyone and must be addressed.

Ms Scott questioned when additional buses promised by the Government would arrive, and why daily cancellations were “increasing instead of decreasing”.

She also asked questioned when the bus schedule would be brought to arbitration.

Ms Scott added: “It is incumbent upon the Government to bring a speedy and satisfactory resolution to this issue.”

Home affairs minister Walton Brown, who has stated any strike or industrial action by drivers would be unlawful, has referred the matter to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.

An urgent meeting is to take place either today or tomorrow between the BIU and Roger Todd, the Director of the DPT.