TAXI STRIKE THREAT
Group presses Gov’t to resolve grievances
Commuters have been warned to brace today for the start of a three-day, all-island public transportation strike spearheaded by the One Voice Transportation Group that is expected to significantly impact mobility in Kingston and St Andrew.
The transport operators said they would be withdrawing service effective 4 a.m. to send a strong message to the Holness administration to address a slew of complaints.
“We want to say to the public that we cannot guarantee normality come Monday, and we are sorry for the inconvenience that you will face, but not until we take industrial action, not just in the public transportation sector, but in every sector, only when we take industrial action we are heard,” the group’s president and director of communication, Lorraine Finnikin, said during a meeting on Sunday with dozens of taxi operators at National Heroes Circle in Kingston.
Among the issues plaguing the group is discontent with some measures in the newly enforced Road Traffic Act and the clampdown on outstanding traffic tickets.
The cabbies’ grievances include hefty ticket fines, the suspension of licences after paying fines, the lack of designated parking areas and stops for taxis, and the mandated use of wreckers only for towing vehicles.
“The operators and investors are tired. They are worried and are living in fear. They’re operating at the mercy of the court and at the discretion of the police, and we need the Government of Jamaica to intervene because we are part and parcel that have helped to put them in power and have asked them to Government on our behalf and for the best for us, but the evidence before us is that they are governing against us,” Finnikin lamented.
Although the strike is set to go ahead without the support of other taxi and transportation groups such as Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), Finnikin said the action will make a severe dent in the public transportation system. Finnikin said that he has the support of a number of independent route-taxi operators.
TODSS President Egeton Newman criticised One Voice Sunday, describing the planned disruption as premature.
Newman said his group would not be endorsing the strike and called for more consultation with the Government.
“We cannot do it this way. It is time for unity in the public-transportation sector. We cannot get what we want in this style, we cannot get what we want in this fashion. We have to wheel and come again if we want to attack the problems in the sector.
“We have to have a change. We have to have a paradigm shift in the transport sector.”
According to Newman, there is too much in-fighting in the sector instead of everyone uniting to fight for the betterment of the sector and to have the issues adequately resolved.
“We can’t do it by blocking roads and burning fires. We have to do it in this fashion,” he stressed. “Some people love the fight and some people well want a strike tomorrow politically.”
Newman, who was speaking during a TODSS consultation session at Melbourne Cricket Club in St Andrew, said the association will be working to educate its members about the new law.
The group’s lawyer, Andrea Moore-Phillips, said a major concern for TODSS is that the reprieve granted in relation to outstanding tickets was of very little benefit to the operators and the general public.
Jamaicans were given 48 days to meet the January 31 deadline for outstanding tickets to be cleared.
Announced mid-December 2022, the lifeline guaranteed the expungement of all demerit points generated after February 1, 2018. The Government also pledged to amnesty all infractions committed on February 1, 2018, or earlier.
But the last few weeks of the partial amnesty saw courts in major towns and cities swamped with motorists, making it impossible for staff to schedule hearing dates for thousands of alleged offenders.
That has left motorists in limbo, with the deadline gone and many yet to face a judge.
“I believe that the Government must take a relook as to whether they are going to move back that date in terms of February 1, and, in fact, look at the court date that persons got up to the night court of January 31,” said Moore-Phillips, who argued that traffic offenders who want to clear their arrears have been compromised.
The child seat requirement stipulation is also a source of concern for the group, but the Government has signalled that it would be reviewing that statute.