Minister of the Creative Economy, Culture and Sport John King wants a minimum wage introduced for public service vehicle (PSV) operators.
At the same time, he is suggesting that owners of those vehicles be held responsible for the bad behaviour of their drivers.
Contributing to debate on the Road Traffic Act in Parliament on Tuesday, King explained that PSV owners often require their drivers to earn a minimum amount of money for them, before the drivers could themselves be paid.
“If you are saying people are going to work and they are being paid after having to provide a certain amount of money if they are not the owner of the vehicle, you are in part and parcel contributing to the recklessness that happens on the road,” King argued, adding that this had been a concern of his “for some time now”.
“Let’s say I have to make $300 or $500 at any point in time before I get to be paid. It means that I have got to get a certain number of passengers into the vehicle before I earn a wage. You are putting that pressure on me to do that but then you get the kind of problems we are facing today. Someone has to be bold enough to say there must be a minimum wage or something that you start off with, because we cannot continue like this,” he warned, though making no mention of recent calls by PSV operators for an increase in bus fares.
King also expressed concern that PSV drivers, and not the owners, were the ones being hauled before the courts for various breaches.
“Too long and far too many times I have opened up newspapers and seen drivers before the courts; 20 charges, 21 and counting. This is the epitome of madness. There has to be something that says after a certain number you revoke the licence or you put some onus on the owners of these vehicles,” suggested King.
In making his contribution to the debate, King also suggested that time restrictions be placed on container trucks, which he said, “continue to cause problems” on the island’s small roads, especially during peak hours.
He argued that they were contributing to accidents and traffic backups, which ultimately impact on national productivity.
“If you have done any amount of driving in Barbados, ever so often, especially at roundabouts, you would see a small vehicle stuck underneath a long-haul container vehicle,” King said.
“I would like to suggest, and humbly so, that we may want to look at restricting the times or putting some measures in place that would suggest that these types of vehicles use the road between certain hours, especially not in the hours that are peak time for people to be getting to work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan expressed concern that some construction firms were telling their employees they were self-employed although they were being treated like full-time workers.
While not naming any company, Jordan said they were doing so in an effort to avoid paying national insurance for the workers.
“In Barbados there are construction companies that are saying to their employees that they are self-employed, refusing to pay national insurance for them. But they are breaching all the tenets that govern employer-employee relations. Persons have to work specific hours using tools of the company, doing the work in a manner mandated by the company, all the things that say they are employees, but to avoid paying national insurance for those persons, they treat them as self employed. Those kinds of things have to stop. I cite that because it is a manifestation,” Jordan said. (MM)