The organization representing public service vehicle (PSV) owners has broken its silence on the latest action by workers to protest the conditions under which uniforms must be worn.
The Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) is insisting that drivers and conductors must wear the disputed crest of the state-owned Transport Authority (TA).
It is the requirement to wear that crest on their shirts while at the same time having to buy the same top for $60 from the TA, that led the workers to go on strike Wednesday and launch a new bargaining agent.
The drivers and conductors contend that they should not have to wear the Authority’s logo and buy the shirts too, especially for double the price it would cost at most stores.
But president of the AOPT Roy Raphael said wearing of the Authority’s logo makes the drivers and conductors legal and cannot therefore be compromised on.
“We are well aware that the cost was a little expensive…we had to negotiate with other suppliers as well who entered the market. I want to make it clear that the logo system is not something that just came about. It was part of the last Administration when we were looking at regulating the PSV uniform,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY.
He suggested that one of the reasons for insisting on the wearing of the uniform and crests was because PSV operators appearing before the law courts are fined as much as $1,000 for not adhering to the correct dress code.
“There was a situation where we got 65 per cent of people out there who are not conducting legally, [and] they continue to create problems for us,” he complained.
However, Raphael said the private owners of the PSVs would still like to continue negotiating with the Transport Authority with a view to being able to wear their own crest if the operators requested it, alongside the TA’s own.
“We are still maintaining that the Transport Authority logo should be worn so that they can regulate the uniforms, because you can’t just walk into a store and buy a Chefette uniform,” he said.
The AOPT leader also gave the assurance that it was willing to work with the new Public Service Vehicle Workers’ Association (PSVWA) and to assist its members with training.
He said the PSV owners are focused and committed to fighting for members and to pursuing all legal avenues to resolve their concerns.
Raphael also defended his organization’s involvement in the acquisition of the shirts by the Transport Authority.
He assured that there was no way the Alliance would have agreed with any two suppliers of the shirts in order to get “kick-backs.”
“I want our members to know we are focused; we are committed, and we are prepared to work with those persons who are willing to come onboard with us. But one thing we are not going to stop to engage, is any issue in the public sector that is going unsolved,” added Raphael.
At the same time though, the PSV owners’ spokesman is appealing to all parties in the privately-run transport sector to have level heads to allow the industry to go forward.
He argued that the association of owners would not be side-tracked in its efforts to represent its members, contending that the issues being pushed by the new organization have been on the table for years.
He rejected claims by some PSV workers that AOPT – and the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) – have not been doing a good job of representation.
“We are well aware of the issues. The issues are on the table. We continue talks and dialogue with the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance. We are confident that those issues will be dealt with and that everybody will be happy.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the newly-formed PSV Workers’ Association are to hold talks to try to resolve all outstanding concerns, especially those of the uniforms and the revocation of drivers’ licenses after two breaches of the Road Traffic Act or related regulations.
But while most of the members heeded the call by the leadership to return to work after about six hours off the job, a handful of defiant workers continued industrial action Thursday but with minimal affect.
However, the association has warned the authorities that if their grievances are not settled at the upcoming meeting, strike-action would resume and intensified. (EJ)