School bus contractors warned to pay employees

Following complaints lodged by employees, Premier Alden McLaughlin has reminded school bus operators that they have a responsibility to pay their workers.

McLaughlin addressed the issue as he responded to concerns raised by the Cayman Compass at Friday’s COVID-19 press briefing after employees reached out complaining that they were not being paid.

He acknowledged that there was a pay issue with at least one of the companies contracted by government for school transportation services, but he said government pays the contractor for the provision of certain services.

“The bus contractors have an obligation to their staff, regardless of whether they get paid or not, because the employment contract is not between the bus warden and the government, but between the bus warden and the bus transportation contractor,” he said.

McLaughlin said government is “very sympathetic” to what is going on with the COVID-19 crisis, but despite that, the bus companies should still pay their workers.

“I know most of the bus companies have understood that their obligation is to their employees and they’ve taken the hit and have paid their employees while trying to get this sorted with government, but some haven’t obviously,” he said.

McLaughlin explained that the difficulty the Ministry of Education has had with the school transportation contractors is the fact that financial regulations do not allow government to pay for services which it is not receiving or very limited services.

Schools remain closed so most of the contractors are not being utilised except for those who are collecting returning residents from the airport and taking them to the government isolation facilities.

“Certainly, that was not really within the contemplation of the contract to carry schoolchildren,” he said.

However, McLaughlin said the issue is being dealt with and the finance officers are working on paying the school bus transportation contractors.

“Because they are not providing the service, [through] no fault of theirs … there is not a basis for government to pay the contractor, and the people who handle this, the CFOs …  are very mindful of what the financial regulations permit and don’t permit. So, they have been in the process of developing a workaround which would be acceptable to the auditor general to allow payment to the bus contractors, even though they are not providing the service,” he said.

He said he has spoken to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson about the issue.

“He says he’s satisfied that an appropriate workaround has been found and we hope in the course of next week that we’ll be able to pay the bus contractor,” the premier said.

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