A brief strike by Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers and conductors today prompted the Transport Authority to temporarily extend a controversial, five-minute waiting rule at the Constitution River Terminal
After the operators walked off the job over the “disrespectful” and “unreasonable” implementation of a rule, Transport Authority Chairman Ian Estwick announced an adjustment.
The five-minute limit on operators to load their vehicles, will be doubled to ten minutes during the “slow period”, Estwick told Barbados TODAY.
He said: “We have had some discussions and we have agreed that for the sake of continuity, the vehicles will be allowed to wait in the loading bay for up to ten minutes during the hours of 10 to 2:30 each day. But that is only for the off-peak periods.”
The transit regulator’s decision came after a meeting with the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) and the Association of Public Transport Operators (AOPT), the major bodies representing PSV permit holders, who all agreed that during rush-hour, the five-minute rule would stand.
But Estwick stressed the temporary change would remain in effect until Sunday, when owners are set to hold talks with the Transport Authority at Solidarity House.
Estwick said: “To the best of my knowledge, there is no problem with the five minute rule during the peak periods, so that’s where we are today and that will be in effect today.
“The ‘ten-minute’ rule will be in effect until we have the meeting on Sunday at Solidarity House where it will be determined what will happen in the future.”
The wildcat strike left dozens of customers stranded in the River Terminal, though it was not observed by all of their colleagues.
Two Mondays ago, at meetings with the Transport Authority, APTO and AOPT, it was agreed that a final decision would be made on the controversial rule after the authority’s board meeting slated for Wednesday.
According to reports, the strike occurred just after 11 when Smiley, a PSV operator, was asked to leave the terminal for challenging the rule.
Smiley told Barbados TODAY he had been waiting in line at the terminal from 9:30 to nearly 12 and when he finally reached the loading bay was told that he had five minutes. With four people in the van, he refused to leave, arguing it was simply not practical and as a result, he was instructed to offload the van and leave the terminal.
He said: “They called the police and told me to leave. I was going to leave and go to the back of the line, but the rest of men sympathised with me and said they aren’t working, because if it happened to me, it could happen to them as well.”
William Darlington, an outspoken operator on route 12 said the “impractical” rule would affect the ability of PSV workers to pay their bills and even afford diesel.
He told Barbados TODAY: “That is not good economics and I don’t think the country runs like that.
“We walked off because of the disrespect to our colleague. He sat down in the yard for three and a half hours and you expect him to move with three people? That’s not fair.
“We have bills to pay too. They have their job to do, but we have a business to run. This is no kindergarten thing.”
Darlington stressed that the rule was most cumbersome in the off-peak hours.
He said: “We understand the rules of the terminal and we are trying to follow the rules of the terminal, but everything is still going against us.”
The route 12 driver said the state of affairs often leaves him feeling like a criminal.
The strike resulted in long lines at the terminal and another line of commuters exiting to find alternative forms of transport, many of them confused and holding varying opinions on the strike.
Tamika Wharton, who declared she is usually contented with the PSV service, told Barbados TODAY: “I don’t know what is going on but I guess they [operators] are doing what they have to do.
“When I came down to town the vans were running, but now that I came back from the court, no vans were running. I have to get my hair done and I’m on my way to get to an appointment.”
But another commuter described the strike as “madness”.
“This is time for school children to be on the road, the buses will obviously be overloaded. So it will be hectic for people to get home, especially when you live far. This isn’t right,” he told Barbados TODAY.