JUTC reports $2 million in losses from drivers' strikeTuesday, November 30, 2021
BY JASON CROSS
THE Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) said it lost just over $2 million in revenue from yesterday's strike by drivers which impacted almost all of its morning bus schedule.
The strike, which created a financial boom for taxi and private bus operators, was sparked by last Friday's arrest of a JUTC driver by police who dragged him from behind the wheel of bus he was driving.
He was charged with breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act, disobeying a constable and resisting arrest.
As a result, hundreds of commuters in Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Thomas were left stranded at bus stops from as early as 5:00 am.
However, discussions between the management of the State-owned bus company and the police satisfied the drivers that the matter would be properly investigated and as such, they agreed to return to work before noon.
The driver at the centre of the incident has been released from police custody and also resumed his duties yesterday.
Bus bays in downtown Kingston, which on normal days are lined with JUTC yellow buses, were swarmed by taxi and Toyota Coaster bus operators who all reported increases in passengers and profits.
Their only concern was the cops, as was evident by them hurriedly jumping into their vehicles and driving off upon hearing shouts of “police” from people on lookout.
Many commuters, ignorant of the strike, stood patiently awaiting their regular buses to take them to work, or home from work, but as they became aware of the work stoppage they resorted to taxis or privately owned buses.
One of those commuters, a man who was seen in Parade, downtown Kingston, told the Jamaica Observer, “Mi never know dat. I am heading to Portmore. I usually pay $100 on the bus. Normally a $200 to $250 mi pay in taxi, but probably dem hike it up further now.”
One woman who resides in Portmore, St Catherine, was not pleased that she was being forced to take a taxi to work. She pointed out that she was fortunate, however, to have been picked up from Portmore and transported downtown by a JUTC driver who was unaware of the strike.
“I have to go to work and I don't usually take these taxi people. I should reach work long time but I called them and told them I will be late. I live in Portmore and the driver didn't know about the strike so I was lucky this morning to even reach Kingston. That was the only bus coming out of Portmore this morning from the Gregory Park side. This is chaos,” she said.
One man who 'loads' public passenger vehicles said the strike allowed him to accumulate his breakfast money far earlier than he usually does.
“Is a good look. Mi can mek a money because the JUTC bus dem nuh out and di police look like dem kinda gi wi a leave right yah now. Mi nuh know what caused it, mi jus' come out and hear seh dem strike. But, is a good look because mi see breakfast money already and a after 9:00 am. Otherwise [from that] it impact di people dem weh a go a work,” he told the Observer.
In Cross Roads one private bus operator stated that it was like Christmas had arrived early for him and colleagues.
“A di fuss mi ever mek $8,000 from Boulevard fi come a Cross Roads and a not even noon yet. When mi reach this morning it come een like Christmas. Early this morning people 'lap up' from back to front. Car a carry all 11 inna it and driver a consider fi put people inna him lap. Road nice this morning, man and mi wouldn't mind if it stay suh fi di rest a di day,” he said.
However, by noon the JUTC fleet was up and running again.
Cecil Thoms, the JUTC's communications manager, said that the driver involved in the incident and others decided to return to work following a meeting between the company, union representatives and the police high command. Thoms said the team members were given a commitment that the matter would be investigated, and the plan was to roll out their full complement of buses for yesterday's afternoon service.
“The drivers are convinced that the matter has the attention of the police commissioner,” he said.
Early yesterday morning, JUTC Deputy Managing Director Owen Smith had told the Observer that the incident was just another in a series of complaints by the drivers about police abuse as he sought to explain what the driver said led to the incident.
“A policeman parked his private car in a lay-by at North Parade downtown and the bus came into the lay by behind it. The policeman wanted to reverse and told the driver to reverse. However, the driver refused as we don't reverse buses in the lay-by because it is dangerous as commuters can get crushed. A marked police car came by and the information I have is that the policeman who wanted the driver to reverse told his colleagues to 'Deal wid him'. That resulted in the driver being arrested and slapped with three charges,” Smith said.
Video footage of the incident circulated on social media showed two cops dragging the driver from his seat.