Taxi boss vows no let-up in transport strike
As protest action by taxi operators continues to cause uncertainty for commuters, portfolio Minister Audley Shaw is expected to address the nation today on the burning issues bedevilling the transport sector.
Shaw will make a statement to the House of Representatives amid anger from busmen and cabbies at the newly enforced Road Traffic Act, including the dramatic increase in fines and regulations mandating the use of child-restraint systems.
A three-day, multi-parish strike by taxi operators, organised by the newly formed One Voice Transportation Group, is expected to continue today despite patchy participation from operators on Monday.
A strike, he contends, is the only way to get the Government’s attention and vows to stay the course until all their grievances are addressed.
“I will not let up,” president and communications director at One Voice, Lorraine Oscar Finnikin, declared at a press conference on Monday.
“... We can’t operate in an environment where the environment is not conducive to the way we operate as public transportation investors and operators.”
It was business as usual in Kingston and St Andrew where the strike was expected to have the greatest impact, as only a few operators took part. Reports from Westmoreland suggested similar ambivalence.
But commuters in Brown’s Town, St Ann’s Bay, Ocho Rios in St Ann, and Port Maria, St Mary, experienced some delays because of the strike. In Manchester, approximately 90 taxi operators joined in the protests, sparking travelling woes in Christiana and Mandeville, as well as Albert Town, Trelawny.
But Finnikin said his organisation laid the groundwork on Monday to ensure increased participation going forward.
“We have people out there trying to do some sensitisation and educating them where that is concerned. We expect those that realise what is ahead of them will join in the withdrawal of service,” he said.
At the same time, he criticised the Government for not educating the public fully on the statute before its implementation on February 1.
“They don’t have a clue what is in it, they don’t have a clue,” he said of the taxi operators.
Finnikin, who is a pastor, was a member of Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services. But he broke away from the organisation in October over claims of fruitless meetings with government officials and broken promises.
Two weeks later, he formed his own lobby.
In December last year, the Government opened a 48-day window amnestying motorists from all tickets prior to February 1, 2018. They were, however, mandated to face the courts to pay fines or challenge the allegations of other outstanding penalty notices.
Compliant motorists would also have all demerit points expunged by the January 31, 2023, deadline.
However, Finnikin reiterated that a payment plan would have been more effective and contends that the conditions of the reprieve are not viable.
But Finnikin’s gripe is that some transport operators have lost their licences in court hearings while others have ended up in jail.
He also claimed that the police are arresting taxi operators and taking them before the courts for tickets that were declared null and void.
Additionally, Finnikin said its more than 2,250 unregistered members are infuriated at the prospect of being ticketed for not having a child seat.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated last week that the requirement for public transport operators to equip their vehicles with child-restraint systems would be reviewed at the next meeting of the National Road Safety Council on February 9.
But Finnikin is not too optimistic that anything will change.