Sat | Oct 21, 2017

JUTC overstaffed - 500 more workers than needed at company

Published:Thursday | October 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Articulated buses have procured by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) to bolster its fleet in 2013.
Paul Abrahams, managing director of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company
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The cash-strapped Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC) is currently implementing a rationalisation exercise to reduce the number of workers at the overstaffed state-owned bus company, which has nearly 500 more personnel than what is needed to run its operations.

Managing director of the beleaguered entity Paul Abrahams told members of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee yesterday that the company was spending an additional $25 million per month, which translates to $300 million per year, to pay the 500 workers.

Abrahams, who left the JUTC in 2012, said that at the time of his departure, the company was operating 400 buses with 1,780 workers. The managing director said that the company's staff complement had surged to 2,250 when he returned in May, last year. He made it clear that he did not employ the additional persons.

Eyebrows were raised during the committee's deliberations yesterday when Abrahams disclosed that there were 300 acting and temporary positions at the company.

"We should be completing the (rationalisation) exercise by next week, at which time, representation will have to be made to the ministry as to what will happen to these additional persons that need to be removed from the JUTC," said Abrahams.

It was also revealed that the public relations (PR) and marketing department had employed 35 persons.

With the start of the rationalisation exercise, the public relations department has been reduced to fewer than 10 persons.

"A number of those persons have been put back to their substantive posts. They were in the PR department as acting," Abrahams noted.

At the same time, the committee was informed that vacancies existed at the company for technical staff such as grade-one mechanics. Abrahams said that the company had lost grade-one mechanics to companies in Europe and Canada, which had made lucrative offers.

Acting committee chairman Mikael Phillips said that the JUTC would have to find ways to bond those persons who had been trained at the expense of the Jamaican taxpayers.

Concerned about JUTC's inefficient operations

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Mining Dr Alwin Hales said that plans were being put in place to make the Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC) more efficient.

He said that the restructuring exercise taking place there was being pursued in earnest but noted that the ministry was aware that employees were unionised, and discussions would have to take place with the representatives.

"I am sure that some arrangement can be made that will optimise the staff level to bring it back down to where it ought to be, and, maybe, to optimise it even further if we look at outsourcing some of the operations that are now carried out in house," Hales said.

Juliet Holness, member of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, raised concerns about the inefficient operations of the bus company, saying that past administrators at the company had allowed the JUTC to deteriorate "to the extent that we are spending $300 million a year on salaries that could have bought replacement buses".

Dr Hales said that a management audit that transport minister Mike Henry had ordered was done and the findings had been submitted to the parent ministry.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com