By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Taxi and jitney drivers have now joined forces and are threatening a ‘massive shutdown’ if government does not take their concerns seriously, stating: “We will no longer be pushed aside.”
Both president of the 1100 strong Bahamas Taxicab Union (BTCU) Wesley Ferguson and president of the Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union Frederick Farrington told Tribune Business that government has until July 1 to meet with them and work on resolving their issues.
Mr Ferguson told Tribune Business: “The taxi and bus drivers have joined forces because we have pretty much the same issues. They are closely connected. We don’t want any more smokescreens or stall tactics. We are warning the government that this is the last delay. They cannot expect us to sit idly by and do nothing. The more they delay, the more determined we will become to withdraw services, taxis and jitneys and see how that plays out.
“The issues that the taxi and jitney drivers face are real issues. We will no longer allow the government to push us to the side and disrespect us. Until they realise how valuable the taxi and jitney services are they will continue to push us to the side. We are going to expect better from the government and force them to do better.”
As to the industry’s concerns Mr Ferguson said: “We are talking about moratorium on taxi plates to being lifted, the unfair practice of leasing of taxi plates and how to actually regulate the industry where taxi drivers can actually own a business.”
Mr Farrington told Tribune Business: “We are saying enough is enough. We had reached out to the minister and the prime minister following our last press conference we had and have heard nothing from them. We want to sit down and have this conversation before we take the next step. It looks like we are going to have to take an approach that we don’t want to take. We are talking about a massive shutdown, a strategic, organised shutdown.”
According to Farrington there are approximately 330 public drivers operating on 23 routes in New Providence with the union representing 75 to 80 percent of them. “We actually represent drivers, owners and franchise holders under that umbrella,” said Farrington.
Among the issues bus drivers are looking to have addressed are a possible fare increase, the lack of bus stops along the various routes, improvement to the inadequate shelter at major bus stops and the lack of restroom facilities for public transportation drivers. “We want the government to sit down with the taxi union and the drivers so we can resolve our issues.
Transport and Local Government Minister Renward Wells said last month the prime minister has formed a cabinet sub-committee of six ministers to tackle all issues surrounding the taxi industry. Mr Ferguson said recently however that he had little confidence in that committee.