Sunday, April 21, 2024

Lashley: UCAL can’t hold public to ransom

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MINISTER OF TRANSPORT Michael Lashley is drawing the line concerning United Commercial Autoworks Limited (UCAL).

When questioned during a tour of the Speightstown Bus Terminal yesterday, Lashley said UCAL, vehicle repairers, had stepped over the line when it approached the media and that it will not be allowed to hold the public to “ransom”.

“I had a discussion with UCAL, then I was out ill for a week. Then they appeared in the Press negotiating but I don’t negotiate in the Press. We gave the assurance we were working with the Ministry of Finance . . . . We had a discussion in good faith and then they run to the NATION and I cannot negotiate like that. It is a bad practice and I am not going to condone it. No party or firm will hold the Transport Board or the travelling public to ransom,” he said.

Lashley’s comments followed the second strike taken by UCAL workers in protest at not receiving what they said was already agreed upon funds to pay their salaries and operating expenses until March 31 next year, as well as more than $20 million owed by the Transport Board for work done on buses.

They also accused the Transport Board of outsourcing business to other entities, giving them “very little work”.

The minister added that while there would be a continuing relationship with the privately-run automotive company, things were set to change.

“The contract with UCAL, we are looking at it and there will be changes. We have stepped up in terms of equipment and the construction of a small area which can hold more than three buses, which was what it normally used to be [with UCAL] and improved quality assurance.

“We have to provide buses. If the workers at Transport Board can repair the buses and they are doing a fairly good job – we have had no problems thus far – [then so be it] but we will continue to work and have a relationship with UCAL,” he said.

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