Westmoreland councillors urge taxi operators to cancel planned strikeSunday, August 15, 2021
BY ROSALEE WOOD
WESTMORELAND, Jamaica — Councillors Kevin Murray and Rudolph Uter are urging taxi operators in this parish to cancel a strike scheduled for tomorrow.
Cabbies who ply the routes from Savanna-la-Mar to Grange Hill, Grange Hill to Green Island, Grange Hill to Lucea, and Savanna-la-Mar to Burnt Savannah are planning to withdraw their services due to deplorable road conditions. This comes six weeks after a media report that more than $65 million was allocated for roadwork to be done from Gooden's River (Savanna-la-Mar) to Glasgow.
Uter, who is councillor for the Frome Division, has questioned the rationale behind the planned protest, saying it was public knowledge that money has been allocated to do the repairs.
“It is so unfortunate that this is being planned now, because Minister [Everald] Warmington toured the constituency and road rehabilitation was approved for this route,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “But it is a process. A project of that size has to be approved by Cabinet and then put to tender. It has been advertised. At the end of the period, the contractor that wins the tender will be notified and contracts will be signed and then work will start.”
Murray, who is councillor for the Friendship Division, urged the taxi operators to think of the impact a withdrawal of their services would have on commuters.
“I would urge these operators to read the article published on July 5, 2021 and reconsider taking this action at this time,” he said. “I find it extremely unfortunate that, within six weeks of an announcement, a planned protest is in the making. I would urge these taxi operators to allow the process to take its course before embarking on a path that will have great implications for the people who depend on your service on a daily basis.”
However, cabbies like Eyon Knight, who operates on the Grange Hill to Green Island route, told the Sunday Observer that withdrawing service is their best option at this point. Knight said they rarely see their elected representatives from the local and national levels.
“We a do essential service and unnuh nuh recognise we fi say unnuh can come meet wid we inna di bus park, that every man can voice them opinion,” he said in responding to the councillors' comments. “Is like we nuh have no defender. So we haffi just do a ting fi defend weself, that unnuh see say we serious, that our voice can be heard.”
He has heard of plans to repair the road, he said, but they are tired of waiting for work to begin. Their vehicles are taking a battering and often in need of repairs.
“We can't bear any more, a we a feel it. We nah mek as much fi fix vehicle because nutten nah gwaan innah di pandemic,” Knight added.
Alexander Johnson, who operates from Grange Hill to Savanna-la-Mar, also voiced his frustration. The route is in need of an effective drainage system that will keep the water from pooling on the road, he said, and it is time for a major overhaul of the road.
“Over the years we deh pon di Sav Grange Hill road and a pure problems. A pure pothole, pure bounce. Di road no ready. And every minute dem come patch up it. Di patching nah work fi di road, di surface rotten so it a sink. We just waah some road, bredda. Just gi we some road so we can operate pon and feel comfortable by di end of the day and we can see something outta di vehicle,” he appealed.
“Every year we hear say big project a go gwaan fi Sav Grange Hill road, [but] we nah get dat; a pure patching,” Johnson continued. “We want couple mile a road fi drive pon too. Wah happen to Westmoreland? A just Kingston and St James and north coast, no money nah spend in yah so. Every time that election come, the whole a di big hierarchy, a dung inna dem place yah dem deh. A just road we want, bredda, we nuh want nutten more from unnuh. Gi we good road fi drive pon.”
Over $100 million has been allocated for road rehabilitation projects in Westmoreland Central, which is represented by independent Member of Parliament George Wright. This is to cover work from Gooden's River to Glasgow, Shrewsbury Road to Welcome, Retreat to March Mount, and Shrewsbury Logwood Bridge.