Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators at the Constitution River Terminal are still agitated over “unreasonable” regulations being imposed by the Transport Authority and have warned that Tuesday’s strike was just the beginning.
While operators grudgingly returned to work on Wednesday morning, many were adamant the short-term adjustment to the controversial five-minute rule is unsatisfactory and have cautioned that the temporary ten-minute rule would not work in the long-term.
“There should be no time limit whatsoever, because you are cutting into the profits of people who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their vehicles to do a business,” one driver told Barbados TODAY.
He was adamant that yesterday’s action was no strike, but merely a ‘short’ break for workers to voice their concerns.
Despite a meeting slated for Sunday at Solidarity House between PSV owners and the Transport Authority, the drivers and conductors fear their interests will not be served.
The temporary system announced yesterday permits operators to load their vehicles for ten minutes between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
However conductors and drivers believe their customary method of waiting until their PSV is full before leaving the terminal should be restored and claimed their already tight budgets were under strain with the restrictions.
“They altered it because we took that little break. The chairman [Ian Estwick] said he is not speaking to drivers or conductors, because their job is to deal with the permit holders, which is APTO [Association of Public Transport Operators and Alliance Owners of Public Transport, AOPT],” the driver said.
But he warned: “Wait until after Sunday. You see how calm the wind is right now? We will see how the wind blows after that.”
According to Margaret Blades, a conductress on the Pine/Wildey route, most PSV operators were abiding by a slew of rules imposed by the Transport Authority including a new uniform policy and the wearing of badges among others, but the five-minute rule is unbearable.
“You can’t raise your voice to give an opinion in here and whatever they tell us to do, we do. But when they come with this five-minute thing, you can’t get five people in five minutes, so how do you expect this to work?” she asked.
“We have to find money to pay the boss, money to pay the conductor and the driver and you still have a family to feed. You come into the loading bay and pick up two or three people and they are looking at their watch and telling you ‘five minutes’. How are you going to get money? Some have mortgages to pay, we have our bills to pay and it is really hard out here.”
Instead of a five or ten-minute system, Blades suggested a 20 or 25-minute time for loading, claiming drivers would use their discretion and move when they accumulated a reasonable load.
Steve Mayers, a driver on the Ellerton, Greens and St Judes route argued the situation is even worse with the 75 per cent increase in bus fare, legislated earlier this year.
Nigel Lowe, a driver on the Pine/Wildey route took particular issue with the Transport Authority’s attitude toward operators.
“They said that there are not speaking to us, so that means to me they don’t care about us. In here is like a prison,” he said.
“We are giving them an opportunity and on Sunday… we need to come to a conclusion on this matter.”
Yesterday, after meetings between the Transport Authority, APTO and AOPT, the authority’s chairman again stressed he would not be negotiating with workers because his obligation was to the owners of PSVs and commuters. Only one of the two owners’ associations entertained the idea of a worker’s representative on their board.