The haunting rhetoric of finding money for a boat race for the rich vs. schools and buses

There’s an interesting suggestion in Bermuda Real’s bus strike coverage

One operator questioned the fact that in lean economic times, the former administration came up with millions out of the public purse for a boat race – the America’s Cup.

This is coming up now, 11 months into a PLP government, as justification for why the government should throw money at the transportation system or risk a strike.  This is a sentiment that came up regularly that many PLP supporters latched on to.  That the OBA spent money on the America’s Cup when they should have been spending that money on schools and buses.

It was a big theme used to fuel the belief that the OBA had money to fix the buses but spent it instead on a boat race for the rich.  The trouble though is that now that the PLP is in government, this rhetoric may be coming home to roost.

It is not all surprising that there is now a misconception that there is money to be found to fix the buses and that the PLP should come up with it.  The trouble is, the America’s Cup spending was on economic stimulus that drove investment and spending on the island and created at least temporary jobs.  Buying a new fleet of buses will hit government’s bottom line hard but will do very little to boost the economy.

So, with the suggestion that the BIU has given a strike notice for June 29th, what will the government do?  Hold firm, take the unpopular route of forcing some real changes to our transport system or cave and put us in the likely position of having to raise more debt just as interest rates are rising, the US fed is engaged in quantitative tapering and emerging market yields are rising.

This may be the haunting reality of encouraging people to believe that there was money to be found but it was spent on America’s Cup rather than the buses.  Where will that money be found now?

So what happened with the changes to the bus schedule?

It is interesting to read that the buses will be off the road on Monday as bus drivers protest the lack of buses, breakdowns, and working conditions.  It raises the question of what happened with the changes to the bus schedules to make it more efficient and alleviate much of the strain.

My understanding is that in 18+ years the bus drivers have yet to agree to and ratify any substantial changes to the bus schedules.

There have been numerous attempts over the years to restructure the schedules to reduce reliance on overtime, make routes more efficient and reduce wear on the buses.

In some cases, the union negotiators have agreed to the changes but when put to a vote among the bus drivers it has failed.  It has been suggested that the requirement to put any schedule changes to a vote for approval for the drivers was part of the collective bargaining agreement of 98 or 99.

This would suggest that the bus drivers are a key roadblock to the very things that they’re complaining about but it would mean cutting back on overtime.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it’d be good to know the full story behind why it seems like we’ve had numerous announcements regarding a new schedule but one never seems to have appeared.