Thursday, 01 December 2022 14:00

Taxi operators threaten second strike in a month

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Transport Minister Audley Shaw has said the government will not be intimidated by threats of strike by unruly public transport operators.
His comment is in response to groups representing transport operators encouraging their members to withdraw their service from today to December 6, as no further word has been forthcoming from the government on the call for a payment plan to clear outstanding traffic tickets.
Mr. Shaw said the issues concerning the payment of outstanding traffic tickets are being examined carefully.
But he said persons with outstanding traffic tickets should start paying now and those with large numbers of outstanding tickets need to ask the Traffic Court for a payment plan.
But One Voice Taxi Association, which has led the call to protest, is not happy with the comments from Minister Shaw.
A member of the association, Ian Lynch, said the plan is to continue the withdrawal of service up to Tuesday, December 6 if there is no further word from the government. 
Another member of the association, Tiganna Madden, said some transport operators decided to stay off the job out of fear of prosecution following the announcement that enforcement of regulations under the new Road Traffic Act would start today, December 1.
Director of the Island Traffic Authority, Kenute Hare, has said the date is being reviewed based on requests from motorists.
But Mr. Madden said without a further announcement and the lack of a payment plan, transport operators with outstanding tickets are panicking.
"A lot of persons say that they are not willing to go to jail so they decide to stay home until they hear from the government. I was told that persons, their licence are being suspended. So what we’re basically doing then, we’re creating criminals in the society because if a person can’t provide fi him family legally, him aguh do it a different way," Mr. Madden argued. 
Lukewarm response 
The reaction from transport operators to the call to withdraw their service has been mixed.
While operators in Spanish Town and Linstead, St. Catherine and parts of St. Mary, including Oracabessa, seem to have heeded the call to stay off the job, their counterparts in other parishes have largely ignored the directive.
For operators in St. Thomas, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth, it has been business as usual.
Several transport operators in St. Elizabeth said that they will not support the indiscipline of a few operators.
The operators say if their colleagues are at at fault in failing to pay their outstanding tickets, they should not be shown leniency.
Schools affected 
At least two St. Catherine schools - St. Jago High and St. Catherine High - did not open for physical classes in anticipation of the disruption in public transportation.
But Hopeton Henry, board member of Charlemont High School in Linstead, said classes were held despite a decline in attendance.
He urged parents to "assess the situation" to determine whether to send their children to school. 
The operators say no further word has been forthcoming from the government, since it said it would not be granting a ticket amnesty at this time.
Mr. Lynch said that operators are not prepared to work based on their uncertain status.
"Starting from 4:00 a.m., we want to withdraw our service - taxi, bus and operators right across the island," he warned.
"We are withdrawing our service because we are losing our licence. [It's not that] you have warrant and they going to take you to the courthouse and you can pay it and gone. The judge taking away licence. Drivers losing them licence, them livelihood," he complained.