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Following Monday and Tuesday Disruption of Duties — Minibus Drivers Eye January For Next Move

By Reginald Andrew

MINIBUS drivers resumed normal working duties, on Wednesday, to bring a halt to the two-day protest action that had taken place at bus stops across the island.

Following a round of negotiations with transport authorities, the mini-bus drivers called off the strike and returned to work.

Image: Commuters waiting for a bus at an empty Gros Islet bus terminal Tuesday. (PHOTO: Anthony De Beauville)
Commuters waiting for a bus at an empty Gros Islet bus terminal Tuesday. (PHOTO: Anthony De Beauville)

The drivers were protesting that the COVID-19 protocols , which required them to transport a maximum of 10 passengers at a time aboard their vehicles was not sufficient to accommodate their basic domestic and commercial expenses They argue that their ‘take home pay’ was inadequate to meet their basic domestic and commercial needs.

Though a definite agreement on the terms for the drivers getting back to work has not been revealed, nevertheless, key spokespersons for the drivers say they are satisfied with the assurances give them by the authorities.

“We had our differences but we came to a conclusion where we will go back to work,” Viani Jacobs, Secretary of the Southern Minibus Association told reporters. The drivers resumed working duties on Wednesday ending the bus strike which had begun Monday.

Jacob said they had reached an agreement and would wait until next January “to decide on the way forward.”

Officials from the Southern Bus Association were blamed for the lack of communication, which resulted in loggerheads between transport authorities, minibus drivers and the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) and later escalated into protest action.

Jacob explained, “Our letters were not intact and they were not getting our information, so we understand that. But we reached at a conclusion where we will be going back to work.”

“We have until the month of January for negotiations so we can get what we’re looking for,” he disclosed.

Jacob said the meeting with the NCOPT was ‘very good’.

The Southern Bus Association had initiated the strike in furtherance of calls for bus drivers to either be allowed to carry full loads or get some form of compensation, or both.

However, the Gros Islet Mini Bus Association which supported the bus strike, appeared to be skeptical about assurances that prompted the protest action to be called off.

President Danny Edward said he was curious to see how matters would unfold, since the words of Transport Minister Guy Joseph and the NCOPT were not put in writing.

Nevertheless, he explained that bus operators would adopt a wait and see approach.

Edward asserted that something good came out of the strike. He told reporters that bus drivers had made their point. “The City is actually like a war zone – very quiet,” he said.

NCOPT 1st vice-president, Kentry Frederick said, the council has taken interest in the proceedings to ensure the credibility of the process. He added: “The NCOPT did discuss that with two of the executive members of bus 2H (Vieux Fort route) and we will guide them…there are processes to follow and we are looking into it. Or we will advise as to what needs to be done and if it was not done properly …so it’s not a big issue, it’s a matter of the due processes that have to follow.”

Frederick added: “The main ingredient here was a bit of misinformation between some executive members and the general body. It must be noted that what they are requesting is what we have been negotiating all along.”

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