By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Taxi Cab Union is threatening to withdraw services this holiday season if Transport Minister Renward Wells does not meet with them soon to disclose the government’s plans for the sector on the issue of taxi plates.
In a letter to Mr Wells yesterday, BTCU President Wesley Ferguson said: “Because of your blatant disrespect for the union, we demand an emergency meeting with you, before this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday season.
“This meeting will give you the opportunity to fully disclose the findings of the commission and how and when the government intends to deal with long-standing issues plaguing the taxi industry, so the president of the union can inform taxi drivers.
“I would like to take this time to remind you of your impressive mirage of empty promises you made to taxi drivers on October 1, 2018. More than a year later, the taxi drivers still await one resolution to your many promises. However, should the union continue to be ignored, you will once again get a grand opportunity to circumvent the office of the president of the union, on November 29, 2019 to inform taxi drivers in person, your brilliant plans for their future. Should you pass up this opportunity, Santa Clause will not be the only thing coming this Christmas.”
Last week, Mr Wells said that the Minnis administration is gearing up to deal with the long-standing issue of taxi plate leasing, noting it is illegal to lease government issued plates.
“You are supposed to be the individual who either owns the plate or you have yourself a company and so you’re not supposed to be subleasing,” Mr Wells said last week. “That law should have been enforced, so it is the intention of the government…to enforce it.”
However, the taxi union is angry that Mr Wells mentioned the illegality of subleasing licence plates when talking to reporters. The union fears the owners of the plates will take them from drivers over fear of being punished by government officials, causing unemployment in the sector.
“Once again, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union has been forced to react to the reckless and premature announcement made on media television this past Tuesday by you pertaining to the lifting of the moratorium on the issuing of taxi plates without consulting with the union,” Mr Ferguson’s letter said. “In spite of numerous attempts by the union to meet with you over the past two months to discuss the way ahead to ensure a smooth and transparent process, and to alert you of a very real possibility that, should you act recklessly and prematurely announcing the government’s intentions, it may result again in panic among leasing plate owners, who will most likely retrieve their plates.
“This will suddenly put a significant amount of taxi drivers out of business, and to put in place a safety net to protect the taxi drivers from this type of mayhem, especially during this long awaited holiday season. Once again you decided to ignore us. We at the union find your actions unwarranted, unnecessary and certainly unacceptable.”
Since the Minnis administration came to office, the government has conducted an audit of taxi plates to show who owns the items. Mr Wells told reporters last week it is unlikely that audit will be released to the public. Taxi drivers claim many prominent people own taxi plates. They believe the status quo is maintained because of the prominence of the people who own the plates.