By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE taxi cab union is in a "chokehold", its president said yesterday, as he threatened legal action against the National Insurance Board (NIB) for allegedly failing to provide it with a letter of good standing.
Wesley Ferguson told Tribune Business: "We are intending to take legal action against NIB. It seems like they are trying to put us out of business. We inherited an astronomical bill from our predecessor. We went into NIB when we came into office, we presented ourselves and asked them to give us a payment plan.
"Since then we have been behind them to get a payment plan. NIB is refusing to give the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union (BTU) a payment plan. We are right now in debt. We have done a whole lot of work, mostly with the Bahamas government, Ministry of Tourism. We cannot now do business extensively because NIB will not give us a certificate of compliance so the government could pay us what they owe.
"As a business entity you have to be NIB compliant. NIB has us in a bind. We have had numerous meetings with NIB officials. To this day it has been to no avail. I interpret this as an act of aggression against the BTU and we are going to take this to court."
According to Mr Ferguson, The Government owes the union around $20,000. "We inherited a bill for $770,000 which goes back decades. NIB now has us in a chokehold," he added.
Tribune Business reached out to NIB director, Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle, but she declined to respond on the basis that NIB could "not comment on individual registrants".
Philip Watkins, immediate past-president of the BTU, offered a slighlty different perspective on the matter, telling Tribune Business: "When my administration took over, NIB presented us with an outstanding debt for a very large sum of money. It was quite a bit of money. I can't recall the exact figure but it was a large sum.
"I don't know how they accounted for it but the administration prior to mine had worked out an agreement with NIB that they didn't seem to live up to. We went in and made an agreement to pay for the time being $500 a month on whatever they say the balance was, and also to keep current with the staff going forward.
"We did an excellent job with that. We were able to get a letter of good standing when we were in office, Mr Ferguson came in and took the attitude that he didn't know anything about these bills and wasn't paying any bills he didn't create. He wants to start from zero but business doesn't work like that."
Mr Watkins continued: "The union has been around since 1940, and there were about 50 to 60 good solid years the union had. In the late 1990s the union began to run into all kinds of financial problems, but prior to that the union was in the black. When we took over in 2014 we met the union in $3.2m in debt, and a part of that debt was to National Insurance."