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‘Too many taxi plates will hurt elderly’ warns union chief

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union (BTCU) president says the elderly are suffering due to the 200 percent increase in the government’s taxi plate giveaway and many will “cry out” this coming September.

Wesley Ferguson, told Tribune Business that the government gave out too many taxi plates in its latest exercise and drivers are now suffering because the market is now saturated with additional taxi drivers. “We only asked for 200 plates but the ministry (of Transport and Housing) gave out 600.”

Between June and July, the Ministry of Transport and Housing gave out 580 taxi plates, reports indicate, well above the 200 Mr Ferguson had initially asked and negotiated for. Despite 90 of the inactive taxi plates being revoked, he said this is still too high a number of taxi plates issued for drivers.

Mr Ferguson added: “We did not anticipate or take into consideration the elderly people, the disenfranchised people, the poor and weak among us and those people are now suffering as a result of the many taxi plates that were issued.

“Now those people who were depending on taxi plate income are now the ones who are suffering including the BTCU because we managed a lot of those plates.”

The BTCU had a long-standing agreement with some of its retired members that they would hold on to their taxi plates for safe keeping and use the revenue from their plates as retirement income for those retired drivers and their spouses. This has now been placed in jeopardy with the exponential increase in taxi plates coupled with the revocation of what was determined as dormant plates.

The lifting of the moratorium on taxi plates was what Mr Ferguson wanted initially, but “didn’t take the elderly into consideration.” He added: “I did my best because I was trying to get my minister (JoBeth Coleby-Davis) or the government of The Bahamas to actually subsidise the union, so we could now purchase cars in these people’s names and put it on the road. It was supposed to be like an employment opportunity, where those people who want to get into the industry ad don’t have a taxi plate or don’t have the means to buy a car can come to the union and get a job as a taxi driver.”

The discussions on this angle “went dead” despite the BTCU being “inundated” with calls from elderly people who believe the BTCU is the place to bring their cars. “The union doesn’t have the resources to take their plates and manage it for them,” Mr Ferguson added.

There are about 200 elderly people that could use the help from the BTCU but they cannot give any assistance. “Just like that, their money ran out because everybody who got a plate got one and went about their business,” Mr Ferguson noted.

The BTCU has lost a lot of its revenue as a result of this oversaturation of taxi plates, leaving them with little room to operate plates on behalf of their elderly members and interested people in the community. “We are telling people we can’t help you anymore, and you either have to come for your taxi plate because it is basically worthless,” he said.

He added: “Either come and get your taxi plate and put it under your bed until you can buy a car or leave it here with the union and see if the union could scrap up some money one of these days and put your car on the road.

He added: “This is a big problem and the government doesn’t seem very concerned about it and they are just moving on.

“Yes, they gave us what we asked for but it wasn’t supposed to be in that proportion. The industry has been oversaturated with new taxi plates. We asked the minister for 200 and she issued 600 and when September comes around, drivers are going to cry out because there is just too much on the road.”

One driver is already crying out as he came to the Tribune newspaper yesterday to complain that drivers are not making any money and he is now headed to the Office of the Prime Minister to lay his claim for change to the industry for struggling drivers like himself.

Luther Humes, told Tribune Business yesterday that he is “desperately seeking help from Prime Minister Davis. I need a decrease in duty for bringing in cars, because we just aren’t making any money. I also want the government to increase the range we can buy older model cars. They need to take the range to at least 1998”.

Mr Ferguson said that he has “never heard” of Mr Humes and that Mr Humes is not a part of the union. He chastised non-union taxi drivers about lobbying on their own behalf and making “a lot of noise” when the BTCU has always been there to help taxi drivers that are members. “They want to be relevant and they are not in the union. So that’s why they seem to want to go elsewhere to their grievances heard because they somehow can’t approach the union because they are not a part.

He continued: “But if they were a part of the union they could approach the union and have their concerns heard and we can take it from there.”

As far as the BTCU is concerned there is “no way” they can lobby the government to change the car importation policy to allow drivers to bring in 30 year old cars that may not be working. “As for the duty on cars, taxi drivers already have a duty waiver on cars every five years especially if they have a brand new car,” Mr Ferguson said.

Comments

tribanon 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Roly-poly Davis told the owners and drivers of taxi cabs and jitney buses in no uncertain terms how little he thinks of all of them when he put the very incompetent and loony attempted murderer JoBeth Coleby-Davis in charge of their livelihoods. LOL

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Sickened 1 month, 2 weeks ago

"The BTCU had a long-standing agreement with some of its retired members that they would hold on to their taxi plates for safe keeping and use the revenue from their plates as retirement income for those retired drivers and their spouses." WTF!!!

“I did my best because I was trying to get my minister (JoBeth Coleby-Davis) or the government of The Bahamas to actually subsidise the union, so we could now purchase cars in these people’s names and put it on the road. It was supposed to be like an employment opportunity, where those people who want to get into the industry ad don’t have a taxi plate or don’t have the means to buy a car can come to the union and get a job as a taxi driver.” - WTFF!!!!!

So the union is actually in the business of running a taxi business not a union? Does their business license state/allow this? No wonder there are so many taxi plates issued. Individuals who have no intention or capability of driving a taxi and the union are basically just getting hand-outs from the government in the form of a license plate.

So what exactly does the application process for getting a taxi plate look like? Is there a question about the type of car you own or intend to drive; insurance coverage; accident history? Or is it just a form on which you state your political affiliation?

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Sickened 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Does the freedom of information act allow a person to get a list of everyone who has a taxi plate? I would love to see how many politicians (past and present) have at least one taxi plate issued to them.

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tribanon 1 month, 2 weeks ago

And the family members of politicians, both close and distant!

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Flyingfish 1 month, 2 weeks ago

How much Taxi drivers does this tiny country need. The rates will have to go up for individual drivers if 1 They don't own their plates 2 More than necessary taxi drivers in the industry 3 Not serving the Bahamian Native market 4 Lack of commercial unionizing to form companies.

Unfortunately this stupid government just gave out 600 new plates for no good reason and refuse to regulate this long standing industry.

We all know the history but right now its going down the drain because of poor policy in Public Transportation.

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hrysippus 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This country really need UBER &/OR LYFT. It is the only way to defeat cronyism in the taxi business and empower ordinary Bahamians,

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bcitizen 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This sounds way to convoluted.

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Socrates 1 month, 2 weeks ago

i wonder when we are gonna have proper taxi companies line all other countries.. u know same paint job for easy recognition especially by visitors, a nunber u can call to request a taxi, a uniform standard of quality. .. that kind stuff

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BONEFISH 1 month, 2 weeks ago

There was once a Bahamas Meter Cab Company. It was based in Davis Street ,Oakes Field. They use to operate a fleet of diesel Mercedes Benz cars as taxis. The owner of the company at one time was Robert Symonette better as Bobby. I was told this by some body a few days ago. They remembered that company and used it's services.

There needs to be a proper taxi service like that on the island .The current taxi drivers don't really cater to or service the local market. This situation is forcing almost adult to purchase a vehicle to get around on this small island. The traffic congestion on this small island is ridiculous

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