The National Association of Driving Schools (NADS) has warned of “serious protest action” soon if their pursuit for dialogue with the government over a myriad of problems continues to be ignored.
In a statement today, May 12, NADS Public Relations Officer Kingson Jean made it clear that the association does not wish to embarrass any administration “but this is what happens when you ignore people’s concerns”.
The association said Minister for Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour Stephenson King and Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation, Guy Joseph have failed to address their concerns formally.
“With the past administration we at least had dialogue to address this issue. With this new administration, the driving school association (N.A.D.S) had written no less than 3 letters from the time they took office. To this date (12 May 2017) not even an acknowledgment of N.A D.S letters have been forthcoming,” Jean wrote.
He added: “Two weeks ago the members of the association decided to hold protest action so we can be heard by the government. Minister Stephenson King got word of our intended protest action and told our President Thomar Francis to give him a copies of the letters sent to the minister of transport and the prime minister.
“He promised by word of mouth to bring it to Cabinet on the Wednesday and that he would get back to our president no later than this past Wednesday 10th ay. To this date. Not a word, not a word, not a word.”
Problems and concerns that require urgent attention, according to the association, include: abundance of examiner absences, backlog in driver’s license practical testing, understaffed system, an additional cost of $50 made to the first-time practical exam without public notice, window and a clerk for driving schools removed without notice, and officials failing on their promises to address their concerns, among other issues.
“The public is to expect a serious protest action in the coming days which will affect the country on a whole if our issues are not addressed in the quickest possible time,” Jean said.
Several members of the public have contacted St. Lucia News Online over the past two weeks, noting their concerns about the delay in doing their practical exams.
One student wrote: “Imagine drivers theory exam, which is supposed to take at least one week is over a month and no results. I did mine on the 26th of April and no results up to now. Some people did on the 12th and no results yet no one has any idea why the delay…. When I ask all they are saying is it’s not ready and I need to do my practical already.”
BELOW IS THE FULL STATEMENT FROM NADS
The abundance of examiner absences have caused a backlog in driver’s license practical testing in an already understaffed system. Many applicants say their recent wait is about two months before they can take a road test.
Students receive information relayed through driving instructors not the ministry. The ministry relay the information to the driving instructors through a WhatsApp message by a junior staff member or word of mouth a day or two prior to the absence of that examiner.
For example, Friday before the following week commences, that exams have been pushed back as a result of a last-minute absence of an examiner.
Many of the issues are caused not by the absence itself, but rather the last-minute notifications of these absences, for reasons it has been advised, that were previously known by the ministry.
It has been said allegedly that one examiner sought “vacation to campaign for elections” and another more recently allegedly for “elective surgery, known way in advance and the most recent an examiner better known as SOS was sent on leave, but the driving school instructors were notified the Friday prior to his leave on the Tuesday.
The department is already heavily understaffed, and these last-minute absences do nothing to alleviate the already burdened process. Whereas it is with in persons right to take vacation or sick leave, and of course unforeseen circumstances do happen, there seems to be no form of HR oversight.
If an examiner wants to request vacation shouldn’t there be a minimum notification period that should be put in place, so that the number of examination slots can be increased to deal with the demand ahead of that absence? Additionally, considering the number of applicants for a driving license increases annually, shouldn’t the number of examiners be increased to alleviate the back log, and be able to accommodate without interruption planned or unplanned absences by other examiners?
An examiner contract states that he has to do at least 8 exams a day and can do more as a matter of choice. However, if a situation arises where a student who is booked for that day can’t make it, the examiner is not obligated to fit any other student to do that exam in the slot of the absent student.
An examiner brings in no less than $8,000 to the ministry per month. They are paid a small fraction of that income generated as a result of their employment. Yet administration after administration has not seen the need to employ an additional 2 examiners.
Over 30 years ago the government had 3 examiners in their employment. This was OK when at that time there was only 10 driving instructors. In 2017 there are 64 license driving instructors. Yet there are still 3 examiners. This makes no logical sense.
With the past administration we at least had dialogue to address this issue. With this new administration, the driving school association (N.A.D.S) had written no less than 3 letters from the time they took office. To this date (12 May 2017) not even an acknowledgment of N.A D.S letters have been forthcoming.
Two weeks ago the members of the association decided to hold protest action so we can be heard by the government. Minister Stephenson King got word of our intended protest action and told our President Thomar Francis to give him a copies of the letters sent to the minister of transport and the prime minister.
He promised by word of mouth to bring it to Cabinet on the Wednesday and that he would get back to our president no later than this past Wednesday 10th ay. To this date. Not a word, not a word, not a word.
Other concerns the driving instructors have both in Castries and in Vieux-Fort were also highlighted in the letters.
Unknown to the public and also made known to us with immediate effect, an additional cost of $50 was made to the first-time practical exam. The association made no fuss as we were under the impression that the additional fees would be the means of justification to employ more examiners. But this is not the case. We were informed by the chief transport officer that this fee had always been there, just never implemented.
Mr. Guy Joseph had a huge problem last year when he was in opposition to a fee being implemented which was placed there when his party was in power previous. It was a fee where persons were being asked to pay for a permit for 1 year instead of 6 months.
We now saying that if the newly implemented additional fee of $50 is to remain, the public will need value for their money.
There was a window and a clerk given by government to deal with all matters concerning driving schools where we would not tie up the line where the general public do their various transaction. This clerk and window was taken away from us without notice. Now driving instructors use the same clerks as the general public which ties up the line for hours at the ministry, wasting valuable productive hours. Time is money.
Students now have to wait for weeks to get theory results. This is costing our Fair Helen money.
The association does not wish to embarrass any administration but this is what happens when you ignore people’s concerns. The public is to expect a serious protest action in the coming days which will affect the country on a whole if our issues are not addressed in the quickest possible time.