Taxi clash
Two groups argue over strike
President of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), Egeton Newman

Conflict between two associations representing taxi drivers was evident on Monday when one group pushed to have public transport operators go on strike over aspects of the new Road Traffic Act (RTA), while the other talked its members out of the action.

After One Voice Taxi Association told its members, on Sunday, to go on strike, Jamaicans awoke on Monday anticipating difficulties getting to and from work, school, and other businesses. However, while some public transport operators withdrew service in rural areas, many in the Corporate Area were on the job, heeding Transport Operators Sustainable Services (TODSS) President Egeton Newman's call for continued dialogue with the Government.

When the Jamaica Observer spoke to taxi operators in Cross Roads and Half-Way-Tree in St Andrew, Monday morning, some said they received no instructions from their association to withdraw service, and therefore it was business as usual for them. Others said they were in disagreement with many aspects of the new RTA; however, they had no choice but to keep on working to make their bosses and families happy.

One taxi driver expressed dissatisfaction with what he described as a lack of unity among operators and owners, which left him with no choice but to continue running his route.

"Nobody nah unite. Mi jump up this morning thinking seh strike woulda gwaan, but the man dem seh dem a go out go work," he said.

Another driver said, "I am under a different association so I am not on strike. That doesn't mean the we are not in line with what One Voice is doing. We still have to think about the kids while we wait on Mr Newman to give us some more instructions."

One driver was adamant that strikes do not benefit anyone.

On Monday morning Newman and One Voice Taxi Association spokesman Lorraine Finikin engaged in a verbal joust during an interview on Nationwide 90 FM.

In calling for public transport operators to continue working, Newman described Finikin as a former member of TODSS who did not stay with the organisation long enough to know how things work.

"He is a breakaway. He was the spokesperson for TODSS who learned a few things but broke away too fast. He should have sat in the seat a little bit more. Strike action is not going to solve the problem of the public transport sector. We need to sit down, look at the problems, and take them to the right source. Mr Finikin, let us talk, nuh man? Nuh bother with the strike business," Newman urged.

However, Finikin was adamant that Newman "does not speak for One Voice Taxi Association". He added that he will be carrying through with the strike.

"President Newman, when it comes on to the public transportation sector I will not be in any dialogue with you, because what you do is sympathise and defend the Government of Jamaica. I represent the public transportation sector and their cry is my problem. If it continues the way it is, and they are forced out of the transport system, we are going to have serious fallout in the economy. Mr Newman is not giving us a fair assessment. This is what he does all the time," Finikin argued.

"Every time the operators and investors plan something he hurriedly comes out and tells us that he has had marathon meetings with Government ministers and there is going to be an announcement in favour of the operators. It is like a record that has been scratched. The sector is used to it by now. Nothing is wrong with meeting with Government ministers, but the problem with it is that nothing they have promised us has ever come through. Why do we continue to go to the table with the ministers of Government and they only give us words of comfort?" he said.

Meanwhile, in St Ann commuters were left stranded for more than five hours after taxi operators who ply the Ocho Rios to Port Maria and Oracabessa route withdrew service as early as 5:00 am. The disgruntled operators were adamant that they would not be working until their concerns were addressed.

However, they returned to work after police personnel told them that inconveniencing the travelling public will not resolve anything, and assured them that their concerns will be addressed at a meeting planned for this Thursday.

Jason Cross

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