Public Service Vehicle (PSV) workers feel let down by the Transport Authority and vehicle owners for denying them the right to have their grievances heard, PSV Workers’ Association president Shawn Best has declared.
Ahead of this weekend’s meeting between the Transport Authority and PSV owners over the controversial ‘five-minute’ rule, Best has vehemently criticised a decision to “deliberately” exclude workers from discussions that will directly affect them on a daily basis.
“The workers have no voice in anything at all. We are just being put out there to work and whatever happens to us happens, because right now, owners are not paying any insurance benefits or anything like that,” Best complained.
“The Transport Authority could have gotten someone from the workers’ organisation on board with them to relay information because we don’t feel like the authority has been doing any groundwork. They’re only dealing with the permit holders and the passengers.”
Following a brief work stoppage by operators in the Constitution River Terminal earlier this week, Best accused Transport Authority Chairman, Ian Estwick of going back on promises made in January when workers staged an island-wide strike.
At the time, Best along with recently-appointed General Manager of the Transport Board Fabian Wharton who was the union’s spokesperson, forced discussions with the authority’s top brass on contentious issues like a new uniform and a three-strike rule.
“The Transport Authority went back on a lot of the promises they made to us… now they’re saying they are only dealing with the permit holders. So right now we are drawing up a petition to present to them shortly, signed by a couple hundred workers,” Best told Barbados TODAY.
“Basically they are not speaking to the people who know what is going on. They are speaking to APTO [Association of
Public Transport Operators] and AOPT [Alliance Owners of Public Transportation] which probably doesn’t even have 200 members among them.”
Earlier this year, Estwick acknowledged the “unique position” of drivers and conductors. He noted “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.”
While acknowledging the action taken earlier this week was not an official strike, Best explained it was triggered by rigid policies being handed down by administrators with no real knowledge of everyday issues faced by PSV workers. He warned this approach would only result in continued agitation because it left drivers and conductors struggling to make ends meet.
“What we are trying to do is negotiate a better way which takes into account the fact that there are peak hours and there are non-peak hours and during the peak hours, a lot more people use the van stand and during [slow periods] a lot more vans come in and go straight out onto the road,” he explained.
“But it seems the Transport Authority does not want to hear what we have to say, so we will let them deal with the owners for now, but we are working on something.”
Best stressed operators were being asked to produce between $450 and $550 of their earnings per day to lease ZRs from owners and between $800 and $900 for the larger
minibuses. He also expressed concern with the high number of operators who were not making National Insurance contributions or enrolled in pension plans to secure their future.
As a result, Best told Barbados TODAY the association was finalising “corporate stuff” and “legal work” to solidify their status as a legal entity.
“It will upset a lot of people, but certain things need to be done in the interest of better working conditions. If you have to come out here and hustle $700 or $800 for an owner everyday, it’s obvious the pressure is going to be on you. If you only make $800, they still want their eight and the diesel still needs to be refilled after they have made their eight,” he said. [email protected]