An air of uncertainty surrounds the smooth functioning of Barbados’ public transportation system after a request by public service vehicle operators for dialogue with the Barbados Transport Authority on a number of pressing issues appears to have been rejected.
To make matters worse, primary and secondary students across the country return to classes tomorrow amid the uncertainty of what next step the aggrieved PSV owners will take.
President of the new group representing PSV operators, Shawn Best, spokesperson, Fabian Wharton and other members expressed extreme disappointment after the meeting, scheduled for 9:30 this morning was called off.
“We are trying to achieve the same things that everyone else is trying to achieve, and that is a better transport system,” said spokesperson, Fabian Wharton.
“So we are extremely disappointed with the turn of events, but we have not lost hope that we can have this conversation later in the evening with our members and then be guided by them. That is all we can do,” he said while indicating that no action had been planned.
The situation reached boiling point last week when PSV drivers and conductors staged a work stoppage over the imposition of ‘an expensive’ new uniform bearing the logo of the Barbados Transport Authority. Ever since then, there were suggestions that if this along with a slew of other grievances were not addressed by authorities, PSV operators, who make up approximately 65 per cent of the country’s fragile public transport system could put down their vehicles.
“At this point, there’s no planned course of action or anything like that. All we are interested in right now is to have some civilized dialogue on the way forward.
“After last week’s events, we were scheduled to have a meeting with the transport authority this morning at 9:30. Our delegation turned up to the Transport Authority’s offices. However we were subsequently informed that there wouldn’t be a meeting,” said Wharton.
While top officials from the newly-formed group told media they were giving transport authority officials until the end of today [Monday January 7th] to engage them, they did not indicate what the next move would be.
“Basically we are going to wait until the end of the day. We are going to try all mechanisms and all resources to try to have that [dialogue] occur. All we are after is to have a conversation as it relates to the issues that we face and come up with solutions that are beneficial to everyone in the industry,” he said.
After receiving the disappointing news from transport authority officials, the group converged on the grounds of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) on Dalkeith Road, St Michael.
“We have asked the President of the NUPW, [Akanni McDowall] to assist us in trying to get that dialogue going and we are asking other friends that we have to do the same,” said Wharton.
McDowall again pledged his support, describing the fledging organization as a “friend” of the NUPW and indicating that for the time being he was just giving industrial relations advice to the group.
“I like the fact that they are very reasoned in their approach. They are looking for dialogue. They are not saying that they just want to take industrial action and inconvenience the public. All they want to do is have a meeting and I find that is a position that I can support,” said McDowall.
“Personally for me I remember catching vans when I was going to school and when I first started to work and I understand the environment they work under and if there’s anything I can do personally or if there’s anything that my organization can do to assist those members, we will do those things in order to achieve the best possible result,” the union president added.