Say public sector employees working from home is 'devastating' blowThursday, March 04, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — A number of taxi operators in western Jamaica have described the move to have public sector employees work from home as the latest “devastating blow” to a sector already reeling from the ravages of COVID-19. There has been increased competition since last March, they told Jamaica Observer West, and an ever-dwindling pool of customers.
“We are not making any money already. Schoolchildren are at home and then the people dem who a go work, you ago send dem fis work from home again? It is just going [to] increase the sufferings,” said Lennox Rodney who plies the route between downtown Montego Bay and Bogue in St James.
On Sunday, among the raft of measures rolled out in response to climbing positive cases of the disease, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that as of today public sector workers not engaged in critical service delivery areas will work from home.
“That [is] going be a devastating blow for us again,” said Sean Stevens who offers his services on the same route as Rodney. “We going through the pressure already and with that implemented, boy is like it going take us out of business totally — and nobody not giving us anything to compensate our losses. Devastating blow!”
Cabbie Anthony Murray agreed with his peers. “Even before the new measures we had problems, and the new ones will cause additional hardship on us,” he said. However, he conceded that there is a need to find a balance between saving lives and livelihood. The new measures, he said, were reasonable and he had expected them to be rolled out earlier.
“The measures are really necessary to curb the spread of the disease so I welcome it in spite of the hardship that we are going through. It is just life over money, because if you don't have life you can't spend money. I wish there was a better way to balance both. I accept [the measures] with open arms but for now, let's see what happen,” Murray said.
He is not the only one keeping a watchful eye on what is ahead for the sector. During a visit to the Montego Bay Transportation Centre on Monday, other taxi operators vented their frustration at the long list of challenges facing them since the outbreak of the pandemic. One major concern was the influx of new operators, fresh from being laid off and seeking an opportunity in transportation.
“Every day somebody else buy vehicle and put on the road. People still a trust [buy on credit] vehicle put on the road so you see 10 new driver, 20 new driver come on every day,” one cabbie argued. “The man dem don't have no work to do — all of them who leave hotel they come run taxi now. So everybody lose them job, the easiest thing is to get a car and come 'juggle'. Everybody coming to run trip but the passengers are not there, most of the people working from home.”
Another chimed in: “Sometime me see one passenger, but as me reach down on the passenger three more cars come out of the blue so you have four cars competing for one passenger. Sometime me have to laugh.”
The cabbies are also seething over the weekly increase in fuel prices and the increased cost of parts caused by the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar against the greenback, which are revving up their expenses.
Meanwhile, minibus operators are also facing their fair share of challenges. According to Dave Vassel, who has been a minibus operator on the Falmouth to Montego Bay route for years, cabbies are encroaching on bus routes.
“They allow the vehicles to invade our route and yet Government calling down on us to pay taxes. Pay tax out of what? We are not working any money to pay taxes. The cars are overrunning the route by running contrary to the terms of their road licence. The police not doing anything so our route is overrun. We have 110 buses [licensed operators] on the Falmouth route so how you allow cars to invade the route? What about the people who paying for their buses?” he questioned. “Bank seizing vehicles because the man them can't get to earn, so it rough.”
Last week the St James police reported that over 9,000 persons had been prosecuted for breaches of the Road Traffic Act in the parish between January 1 and February 20. Over the period some 9,473 tickets were issued during multi-agency operations led by the Jamaica Constabulary Force in collaboration with the Jamaica Defence Force, Transport Authority and the Island Traffic Authority.
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