Less than a year after being retrenched from the Transport Board, 37 ex-workers are finally on the road to owning their own buses.
The drivers, who last year formed a cooperative and signed onto Government’s Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP) on Friday revealed they would have over a dozen new buses on the road by the end of January.
Fabian Thorne, president of the United Transporters Cooperative, told Barbados TODAY: “We have two buses working on the road right now with another 12 or thirteen, some of which are in the port about to come out.
“But by the end of this month we should have another 13 on the road.”
The new cooperative today rceived $2.5 million in financing from Barbados Agency for Micro Enterprise Development Limited (Fund Access) at government’s Warrens Office Complex.
He explained the Transport Board ex-employees would be working on a zero-zero permit, which allows them to augment all routes on the island and address the country’s lingering transport issues.
During the ceremony, Thorne expressed gratitude to the Barbados Workers’ Union and Fund Access for working in partnership with the cooperative.
He also conveyed his thanks to fellow business partners in the cooperative for “staying the course” in the midst of some setbacks.
He said: “It was not easy getting where we are today. Back in March and May respectively in 2019, we would have taken up the opportunity to be our own bosses and purchase buses.
“We thought in the year 2019, we would have been on the road and on our way to owning a second bus.
“However, it took time to get where we are.
“We faced a number of obstacles and challenges and had it not been for the Barbados Workers’ Union, I don’t think we would be here.”
Minister of Small Business Dwight Sutherland announced that his ministry would be willing to make even more financing available to the transport operatos given the importance of their work.
He declared that ordinary people will have their fair share of wealth in the country through ownership and participation as well as intergenerational wealth.
Sutherland declared: “The ordinary man and the ordinary woman and even those who may be classified as wealthy sometimes take public transportation to get to work and the absence of it impacts on productivity in a major way in this country.
“If you look at the loss of value to companies caused by only one person getting to work late.
“One person with they keys to open the establishment can impact significant commerce in this country and other business.”
Sutherland said Government’s dedication to the TAP is also consistent with its commitment to facilitating business ownership among working people.
“We have a duty the children of this country and to lead a legacy which will still be alive 50 years from now,” he added.
General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, Toni Moore, said the union worked with the TAP drivers who in many cases were set back financially because of Government’s retrenchment programme.
But she stressed that the opportunity for ownership was not enough and urged government put measures in place to make business ownership a reality.