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Dec 8, 2005

Bus drivers converge in Dangriga for protest

Story PictureToday drivers from across the country gathered in the southern town of Dangriga in the latest chapter of the bus wars. Demonstrators included fired employees of Novelo’s Bus Line, the recently jobless men and women of National Transport, and of course, commuters. But to absolutely no one’s surprise, while today’s protest may have vented frustrations, little has changed in the turmoil of the transportation industry.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
It may have sounded like a celebration in Dangriga Town, but one week after thirteen employees of Southern Transport Limited were dismissed this morning bus drivers, conductors, mechanics and commuters hit the streets in protest.

Protestors Chanting
?We want new bus! We want new bus! Dah time fi new bus!?

Today under the banner ?United for Safety?, the former employees say public awareness and support is crucial for the success of their cause.

Protestor #1
?We have workers that depend on these buses. Sometimes the buses are not clean, sometimes people get dirty in their uniforms going to Belmopan at work. The drivers need to take money out of their pocket to fix the buses; that is very unfair.?

Protestor #2
?I love how the drivers drive, but I don?t like the buses and since the drivers stopped driving for a cause, I am here to support them for the cause. I myself am forced to take the plane because of the buses; they are in bad condition.?

Protestor #3
?We need these drivers because they have the experience and they have the safety. Safety is their number one priority in life.?

Protestor #4
?I think it is time to let us do our rights for everyone here. The buses is not good anymore, so we need new buses, new changes for us.?

Tonight we understand that the fired men do not want their jobs back, but money that they say the company owes them for years of service.

David Borland, Former Driver, Southern Transport
?As you can see, we are protesting for safe buses and we want clean buses for our community. We feel that the people from this town and from the south have been paying the most money to ride buses, so we believe that they deserve the best.?

That situation in Dangriga is not isolated, as on Wednesday a number of drivers from the National Transport Bus Line lost their jobs when the owners, the Novelo family, decided to suspended its western runs indefinitely. The decision came soon after several of the company?s vehicles were impounded by the Ministry of Transport for operating without a road service permit.

Andrew Wagner, Station Mgr., National Transport
?If the government and the Transport Department don?t see it and don?t feel or hear the cries of the people, then they are very heartless.?

Protestor #5
?I just come down to support my homeboys, you know. I am sorry what happened to them and we fall in the same position as them, so we are just fighting for everything to be better. We have nice buses over there and the people they like it and they want it. So it?s up to them, if they want it, we have it.?

Today we understand that even in the face of an uncertain future, the management of National Transport has expanded its ranks.

David Borland
?We have gotten a call from Mr. Novelo and he has called us in and talked with us and asked us if we are willing to work with him and with his buses. And basically we know that he has his problems with the road service permit, but it makes no difference to us because we?re all in one basket. They don?t have a permit; we don?t have a job, so why not we team together and see if you can get something happening.?

Today, National Transport bus line drove thirteen of their vehicles, apparently to show the people of Dangriga that they have the vehicles needed to provide the adequate service for the commuters in the south.

David Borland
?That?s just the beginning. What we hope to do after this is to comb this town. We are going from house to house and ask our people to sign this petition that the minister of whoever is talking about they cannot give Mr. Novelo a road service permit because of the investment that was done over that… I don?t what they call investment, because these people have not been investing in Dangriga; maybe elsewhere, but not in Dangriga. If they have been investing in Dangriga, then we wouldn?t have come to this. When you look behind me I can see investment; now that is what I call investment.?

National Transport did lose one of those buses they promised would serve the south as this afternoon we understand that a traffic accident on the Hummingbird Highway has taken one of those vehicles out of commission. No one was injured in the accident. With National Transport currently out of the picture, service in the south is being met by the receivership Novelo’s bus company, James Bus Line, and other smaller operators.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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