It was chaos on the streets for the first day of the new school term as hundreds of Public Service Vehicles’ (PSV) operators staged the second work stoppage in less than a week.
The move followed over twelve hours of uncertainty about whether PSV operators would attempt to force a response from authorities over myriad concerns, by striking in circumstances where the government-run Transport Board was simply in no position to service the general public.
For many frustrated commuters, the strike was merely an unnecessary inconvenience. In Speightstown, they vented openly.
“I feel really bad about it, because I might not get to work at all today if I don’t get the transportation to take me to work,” said Eugene Hinds who at minutes past eight was still stranded in Speightstown, although she was scheduled to start work at eight o’clock.
“ZRs are coming down [to Speightstown from the northern part of the country … they’re bringing you here, but it makes no sense, because you’re still not seeing any transport board buses, you aren’t seeing anything,” she said.
Hinds advised the aggrieved PSV operators to go back to work, if not for the sake of the stranded passengers, at least for the benefit of themselves and their families.
“If it’s the law that they have to wear the uniform, then they should wear them. I don’t see anything against wearing the uniform. Wear them, because all of them have to get a little money to support their kids and their families,” said Hinds.
“ I think it is stupid, I think these men should strike for the rest of the year…they had grievances for years. If they want to strike, strike for the rest of the year,” said another woman sarcastically.
“I called [work] already and said that I can’t get to work and if I don’t get to work, it’s not a problem,” she said.
Among those stranded on the country’s roads were several school children. Some, who appeared to be using the strike as an excuse to ditch the first day of school, were rushed onto buses by adults believed to be truant officers at various points.
Charad Sobers, an 18-year-old student of Frederick Smith Secondary School told Barbados TODAY the situation was not affecting him.
“There is public transportation through the Transport Board bus. If the PSVs want to strike, it’s up to them. It ain’t really affecting me. If a bus is full, I’m not getting into it. That’s just me,” said Sobers, who predicted that he would make it to school on time despite the strike.
Since then, there were conflicting reports about the next step operators would take to ensure their concerns were adequately addressed by authorities. PSV workers’ leaders denied reports that a voice note circulating on social media instructing workers to strike around 3 o’clock Tuesday afternoon came from them. However, it was reportedly in the early hours of Tuesday morning that workers were given the go-ahead to strike.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Transport Board Gregory Nicholls said the company was only able to get sixty-three buses on the road, which would serve primary and secondary school students as a matter of priority.
He noted that the Transport Board was placed under immense pressure as a result of the strike, but was doing all it could to mitigate the impact if the action by PSV operators continued throughout the week.