Declaring they had scored two major victories from today’s shutdown of transit service, Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers and conductors have formed their own association.
Following a six-hour strike by operators that culminated with a meeting at the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW), Dalkeith, St Michael headquarters, scores of workers voted to form the PSV Workers Association .
During those elections, Shawn Best was elected as president while Ricardo Forde was elected vice-president.
The workers were welcomed by the country’s largest public sector union, with leader Akanni McDowall pledging the union’s assistance in helping the workers address a list of grievances.
The developments brought an end to the operators’ strike that began just after 9 a.m. before being officially called off at 3:15 p.m.
PSV operators in Bridgetown as well as those in Speightstown took their vehicles off the road in protest of the Transport Authority’s decision to require drivers and conductors to buy clothing that carried its logo, among other issues.
In delivering a brief statement after the meeting which was attended by chairman of the Transport Authority Ian Estwick, as well as chairman of the Authority’s Public Relations Committee Tim Slinger, spokesperson for the new association Fabian Daddy Fabian Wharton told journalists that a meeting with the Transport Authority had been set for next Monday to deal with the workers’ issues.
Until then, PSV operators would return to work, he said.
“As you are all aware sometime this morning PSV workers in Barbados would have withdrawn their services. This action is not an action on the part of the AOPT [Alliance Owners of Public Transport] or the APTO [Association of Public Transport Operators], the two representative bodies of PSV owners in Barbados,” Wharton said.
“Members of the Transport Authority attended that meeting and they received the feedback directly from the drivers and they have asked for a couple days in order to take back that information and feed it back into their systems to have a discussion and then to get back to us.”
In disclosing that the strike had been called off with immediate effect, Wharton apologized to members of the public.
“We do apologize to the travelling public, but sometimes you have to take a stand for the things that you believe in. As of 3:15 p.m. today all public service vehicles will return to normal duty,” he said.
“We also understand that there are some of us who are not extremely happy with the turn of events, in terms of returning to work immediately, but what we can say is that if there is any disruption in our services tomorrow it will be insignificant.”
Speaking to the media moments later, McDowall told reporters the NUPW was willing and able to fight on behalf of PSV workers.
“We just observed what happened here today and we were not fully apprised of all of the issues effecting the PSV workers. Today we heard some of the issues and we said we would follow through with them to make sure that some of the concerns they expressed are resolved.
“Once they allow us to be that voice, we will make sure that all of their issues are resolved in a timely manner,” the NUPW president said.
But McDowall expressed shock at some of the issues that the PSV workers faced.
“I don’t agree that some of the issues that they have should be existing in 2019. I don’t want to trivialize the issues because it might seem small to me but it would be big to them, but I’m hoping that a lot of the issues which are affecting them are resolved soonest.
“When and if given the opportunity to represent them we will do so vehemently,” McDowall declared.
The NUPW president also noted that several PSV operators, although working for private concessionaires had expressed an interest in becoming members of the public sector union.