The operators of privately owned public service vehicles will be back on the country’s roads tomorrow, following what leaders are claiming as a successful island-wide work stoppage, unleashed at the start of the new school term.
After marathon talks at the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) Dalkieth, St Michael headquarters, where workers gathered after refusing to work during the day, spokesperson for the new group representing workers, Fabian Daddy Fabian Wharton revealed the group would release its hold on the country’s fragile public transport system.
Wharton told media that PSV operators would again return to the bargaining table with officials from the Barbados Transport Authority at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning. The development followed a failed attempt at dialogue between the two bodies over a growing list of grievances outlined by the operators on Monday.
At around eight Tuesday evening, officials from the new body received information from ‘a source’, which, according to them, provided the necessary assurance that a meeting would take place.
“We’ll resume normal duties tomorrow because we have been guaranteed and we have confidence in the person that told us that we will have the meeting tomorrow,” he said.
“So from the time I heard that, I gained a little more confidence that the process would follow through tomorrow as planned,” said Wharton.
It appears however that Wharton’s confidence was not shared by dozens of his colleagues. During the over six-hour meeting, loud shouting was heard coming from the NUPW’s auditorium and many left the meeting frustrated as the embattled operators remained divided on their next move.
Wharton revealed that after being given the run around by Transport Authority officials earlier this week, many frustrated PSV operators were losing trust in the system, but decided as a body that they would try again.
The operators also outlined numerous grievances, which urgently needed to be addressed, as Wharton stressed that PSV operators wanted nothing more than to be a part of the consultation process and no longer wanted to be viewed as “a pack of wild dogs”.
“We are trying to be better. Do you think we like being beaten up on all the time? Do you believe when guys were in here they were happy to hear the things that were being said about them on the radio and on the call-in programs?” he asked.
Operators again made it clear that they had no problem with uniforms and were making every effort to wear the grey and yellow shirts, blacks pants and enclosed shoes previously agreed upon. The biggest issue for them however is over the price of up to $70 per shirt and the fact that they were being forced to purchase them from a particular supplier.
Other pressing issues surround the day-to-day PSV operations including a “five-minute rule” requiring operators to spend only a brief time at the Constitution River Terminal’s boarding point, forcing them to hit the road even if their vehicles were empty.
The operators also took issue with the “three-strike rule” which they charged is poorly defined and implemented in addition to poor overall communication by regulators and blatant disrespect by law enforcers.
While he admitted that over the years, PSV operators had contributed significantly to the challenges they now face, Wharton stressed that the operators were ready to turn the page.
“We want to change decades of madness, decades of bad behavior which to some extent has become acceptable and ingrained in Barbadian society and culture,” he said, while admitting the process would take time.
“We just want to be involved and consulted on the things that affect us. We just want to be able to have our voices heard. We just want to be a part of the process going forward, because for too long the operators and the drivers and conductors have been ignored,” he said.