Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Taxi operators warned to keep protest peaceful, respectful

Published:Wednesday | November 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
A taxi operator drives away from a fellow operator who tried to remove passengers from his vehicle on Tuesday in downtown Kingston. Since Monday, taxi operators islandwide have been demonstrating in protest of sections of the new Road Traffic Act.

Egerton Newman, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services, is warning bus and taxi operators in the Corporate Area who have been taking protest action for the past few days to stop removing passengers and keys from the vehicles of colleagues.

Several taxi operators islandwide, and particularly in Kingston and St Andrew, have been on strike since Monday over what they call unfair aspects of the new Road Traffic Act, which is now before the Senate. They are upset about a number of the proposed sections of the law, including taxi owners being penalised for the wrongs of drivers.

At his Pembroke Hall office in St Andrew yesterday, Newman outlined that even though some of the operators are angry, they must respect the decision of those who wish to operate instead of joining in the demonstrations. The protest is expected to continue until tomorrow when the senators are scheduled to debate the bill.

"You are going to have all sorts of uproar, but we want it to be very peaceful. It may be hard for them to make it peaceful because some of the guys, their blood is hot and they all want to air out grievances. But we are putting in place the avenues for them to do so in the meantime," said Newman.

"While we asked taxi and bus operators to take a decision whether or not they wanted to continue demonstrating yesterday, most of them opted to continue demonstrating. Several demonstrations took place. It is unfortunate, though, that operators are taking keys and passengers from vehicles. We don't condone such action. Persons on the Hope Road must desist," Newman said, referring to Hope Road specifically because of a video circulating on social media depicting such actions in a violent manner.




He continued: "We want to have a peaceful, demonstration today, and we want a peaceful demonstration on Friday, and we are calling for the operators across the island to join the demonstrations, but it must be a peaceful withdrawal of services."

Newman outlined that a similar letter of concern over the new legislation that was delivered to the Speaker of the House on Tuesday was delivered to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of National Security yesterday. Tomorrow, the Senate will also receive a letter from taxi operators.

On Tuesday, quite a number of commuters across the island were left stranded due to the strike action.

"I was held up in a bus for more than three hours as a result of the protest," said a woman in Port Maria, St Mary, who gave her name as Michelle Parchment.

One of the major concerns that operators had with the proposed bill was a supposed $75,000 fine for not wearing a Public Passenger Vehicle badge. This has been refuted by the Transport Authority, dismissing it as "fake news".