Wed | Aug 5, 2020

‘We are not animals’ - JUTC drivers cite harsh treatment at hands of travelling public

Published:Sunday | October 13, 2019 | 5:56 AMKaryl Walker - Gleaner Writer
Vinette Reid makes a stop in New Kingston on Friday.
Vinette Reid makes a stop in New Kingston on Friday.

Following on the heels of the murders of a route taxi driver, 37-year-old Akeeno Britton, also called ‘Bubinile’, and Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) driver/mechanic Mikkel Donaldson, 34, two weeks ago, two drivers of the state-run bus company have come out against the bad treatment they have endured while transporting members of the public.

Omar Clarke, the JUTC driver accused of the stabbing death of Britton, has been charged with murder following his surrender to police hours after the incident.

No one has been charged for Donaldson’s murder.

The day following those two murders left many commuters in the Corporate Area and its environs stranded as JUTC drivers refused to work.

But while steering clear of commenting on the murders, Vinette Reid and her colleague, Delroy Wright, opted to speak on the sometimes harsh treatment they receive just for providing the crucial service of public transportation.

According to the drivers, as the faces of the JUTC, they are sometimes subjected to brutal and heartless treatment by passengers and motorists alike.

Reid has been working for the JUTC for 19 years, serving as a conductress for eight years before stepping into the role of driver since 2008.

She recalls being hospitalised after an attack by a disgruntled passenger.

“He had a knife in his hand and I was scared, so I told him I couldn’t carry him. He just ran across the road and, before I know it, him throw a stone and lick me in me head back. The next thing I know, I was on the way to the hospital and police were trying to revive me. I was out cold. I couldn’t even tell them me name,” she said.

The woman said she was bleeding heavily and suffered from headaches afterwards.

“This is the treatment we get. We are human beings, too, and we have families. We are not animals,” she said.

verbal abuse

Reid said she has been spat on, cursed and threatened with murder, all by some passengers who think they have an ordained right to dish out abuse, even when they are not insulted or treated unfairly.

Wright, too, has had his fair share of maltreatment and abuse during his 21 years as a JUTC employee.

“Driving the public is not an easy job. You have to be very careful and watch your head back. People will try to hurt you for the simplest thing. They will spit on you, throw drinks in your face, and you have to pray before you go out every day,” he said.

Reid also recounted the behaviour of schoolchildren who display no decency and act rowdily with no regard for the adults who commute during the hours they travel to and from school.

“Oh, my God, the schoolers. The bigger ones who think they see the world already. They rowdy and unruly. They curse bad words and play dirty music on the phone and occupy the back seat, and you have to monitor them. I try to be a mother to them all the same,” she said with a chuckle.

Both Reid and Wright called for route taxi drivers to exercise greater discipline and care on the roads as their driving habits leave a lot to be desired.

“You have to look out for them, I tell you. Them cut across you and stop anywhere. The route taxi drivers don’t have to drive like that to earn a dollar. They need to do better,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.

But she said other private motorists were just as bad, if not even worse.

“It is not easy being a JUTC driver. But there are some people who are the very best. They treat us like we are equals and appreciate us, and those people, the ones who will tell you good morning with a smile and thank you when the journey is done, are the ones who make your day. They remind you that there are good people left in the world,” Reid said.