Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators across the island are ready and willing to clean up their act and improve the public’s perception of them, but they need the support of authorities to make it happen.
President of the newly-formed Public Service Vehicle Workers Association, Shawn Best gave the assurance after members stopped working around the island on Wednesday morning, stranding passengers in some of the island’s busiest arteries at Speightstown in the north and in the City.
The passionate bus driver with over 20 years under his belt, was the first to admit that PSV drivers had earned a bad reputation over the years for reckless driving, loud music and sloppy attire, but said they were ready to improve their image.
“We are looking to make a change. If the ministers are working with us, we are willing to work alongside them in getting things done. Right now we have a transportation issue in Barbados. We don’t have enough buses, but you know any thriving economy needs transportation to get people to and from their jobs.
“It is a fact that they are people who do nonsense in the industry, but this is a new year and the men would like a change and the men want to change this whole system,” said Best.
Indicating Tuesday’s work stoppage was not intended to hold government to ransom, he stressed that, “they [government] also have to work with us.”
Best took issue with the lack of dialogue on a number of policies recently implemented, including the new uniforms, harsh penalties being handed down in the country’s courts and an excessive number of permits which were wildly distributed under the previous administration.
“There are new laws that if you get reported twice, your licence will be taken away for six months to one year. If I come out here and get reported for having my shirt tail out or stopping at places other than a bus stop, that is six months I am at home. Now my family is going to suffer for six months. People are asking if there’s nothing else we could do, but people are being laid off everyday in Barbados.
“If I go to court tomorrow and I go before a particular magistrate in the Bridgetown Magistrates’ Court, I may have to pay $1000 forthwith or spend 100 days in jail. A man may go in front of the same magistrate on a gun charge and he gets bail,” he said while arguing that often times Transport Board bus drivers were not being held to the same standard as PSV operators.
As it relates to the new uniform, Best again stressed that drivers had no problem with wearing a uniform, but complained that the new ones were two expensive and potentially uncomfortable for drivers.
“We want uniforms that will make us more comfortable. We have no problem with the transport authority selling a PSV crest costing $15-$20 that each man could buy a crest, put it on his grey shirt and when you’re coming out, you are a PSV worker along with your badge. If you don’t wear your crest, then you are not a part of this association and police can tell you to step off of the van,” he added.
In addition, Best also appealed with authorities to use better judgment with the granting of PSV permits. He said under the previous DLP administration, already heavily-serviced areas were flooded, creating a “glut” on these routes.
“One of the things that the ministry needs to do is to redistribute some of the permits.
“Other places in Barbados are lagging badly in relation to transportation. They just took three ZR’s and sent them up Horse Hill (St Joseph) and they have no problems…The ministry can improvise and try to ease the men by taking some of these overcrowded routes and ease the situation which is making the men hustle even harder to make the extra money.” firstname.lastname@example.org