Less than 24 hours after crippling the country’s public transport system by withdrawing their services, Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators appear to have forced high-ranking officials from the Barbados Transport Authority to take notice.
While drivers and conductors returned to work early Wednesday morning, officials from the newly-formed PSV workers association were solidifying their legitimacy as workers’ representatives with the Transport Authority at its headquarters in the Constitution River Terminal.
Chairman of the Barbados Transport Authority Ian Estwick and spokesperson for PSV operators, Fabian Wharton reported that after four hours of preliminary talks, progress had been made on numerous issues, including the controversial new uniform policy.
After expressing disappointment with the island-wide strike the day before, Estwick contended that much of the confusion was the result of ‘misinformation’ on a number of issues. He however admitted numerous concerns could not have been solved without the input of operators.
“All along we’ve been meeting with representatives of the owners, but the drivers are in a unique situation. They were able to give us some information today about concerns and challenges on the routes that we would not have heard from the owners themselves. So it was much more comprehensive than we first thought it would have been,” said Estwick.
While some progress was made on the contentious issue of a new uniform, officials revealed the wearing of a logo, bearing the Transport Authority’s stamp remained in question.
“The logo is the final issue to be sorted out. We have made some recommendations, which in principle have been accepted with relation to the wearing of polo shirts and the colors that will be used. It is something that still needs to be ratified by the authorities. It is not totally resolved but we are pretty clear in our minds where we are headed on these issues,” said Wharton, refusing to say anymore on the matter.
Estwick however added that there were options on the table to ensure operators could purchase uniforms at a much more reasonable price than the up to $75 a shirt, previously stated.
He also offered clarity on the controversial ‘three-strike rule,’ which could see the revocation of an owner’s permit, after the commission of three traffic offences. According to Estwick, the rule was part of 2017 Road Traffic Act amendments, which came into force under the previous DLP administration.
“It is one of these things that would come up because it could be controversial,” he said, but contended that it does not call for any “draconian methods at all,” as it was all a part of attempts to better regulate the sector. PSV operators, who agreed that respect for traffic laws, regulations and general safety of commuters was necessary, accepted this position.
“As it stands now, we are happy with the discussions. We are happy with the way forward and there are moves to have additional conversations relating to the plans going forward. Issues like the ‘five-minute rule’ and lane assignments in the river terminal,” said Wharton.
The decision to resume work brought much delight to commuters, many of whom, only hours before were left stranded at transit points across the country, due to the work stoppage.
As discussed throughout the impasse, all parties involved agreed that an overhaul of some aspects of “PSV culture” is necessary for improvement to take place.
“We want to make it clear that we have observed that some operators are trying to stay within the boundaries of the law, decency and good sense.
“Like in any other organization, there would have the bad apple, but it’s important that we make a move to weed [them] out, because we have to create a better image for the PSV sector and that is what we hope our continued dialogue with the workers’ association will achieve over time,” said Estwick. [email protected]