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Jitney Drivers Strike

Frederick Farrington

Ninety percent of jitney drivers, from each route serviced across New Providence, withdrew services yesterday leaving patrons with few options. 

President of The Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union Frederick Farrington said despite the plea for Minister of Transport Renward Wells to come to the table by July 1, they have gotten no call. 

Mr. Farrington said the withdrawal of services was the last resort to have their voices heard. 

“It’s our last step. No organization or no union intends to take these kinds of measures, but sometimes you have to flex your muscles,” Mr. Farrington said. 

“We want to sit down with the minister to talk about the vexing problems within the industry stemming back over a decade.”

He added that the busing industry is unkept.

“We just withdrawing our services right now to show the minister that we are serious, that we are are together, that we are united,” Mr. Farrington said.

“We are asking the minister to come and sit with us because the next time we are really going to strike.”

When The Bahama Journal arrived at the old City Market parking lot on Market Street, more than 50 bus drivers were assembled with others anticipated to join throughout the day, according to Mr. Farrington. 

Since the union’s outcry in May, Mr. Farrington said no issue had been addressed.  

At the crux of the union’s grievances are fines levied for infractions due to lack of proper signage at bus stops, no proper shelter for waiting bus patrons, restroom facilities for bus drivers and a fare increase. 

“One of our concerns, drivers are being ticketed on a daily basis. The union discovered over 100 bus stops that may have been misplaced or damaged, but never reinstalled [and] these drivers are being ticketed if officers do not see the pole or signage, they are being ticketed,” Mr. Farrington said. 

“It’s their word against the police and normally the police do win with those kinds of cases.

“We are also advocating for an increase in the bus system. In 2008, the taxi drivers and the bus drivers had a fare increase. In 2016, the taxi drivers, alone, had another increase [but] the bus drivers, everything remain as is. 

“Basically, in the economy, ten and a half years, everything basically gone up at least 40 to 45 percent. There should be something given back within the industry.”

The last time the bus drivers got an increase was November 1, 2008. 

As for the pilot project that was set to kick off this month, Mr. Farrington said it is simply a detraction. 

“The pilot project, where it seems that their focus is on, is not a fix within the industry.  It’s just a mere distraction of the reality of what’s going on in the busing system,” he said. 

When asked what impact the industrial action would have on their patrons, Mr. Farrington said prior to yesterday’s withdrawal of services, their customers were informed and stand in support of the drivers. 

“Through social media, we, in advance, apologized to them for any inconvenience caused. Some of them are understanding that within any organization sometimes you have to take a stand to better it off,” Mr. Farrington said.

“Jitney drivers, we cater to the passengers. If you look at any route you will see they start to purchase brand new buses just to accommodate our passengers. So, we have them in mind, but right now we have to do what we have to do to better the system for ourselves and them.” 

As for reaching out to the Ministry of Labour, Mr. Farrington said the union stopped doing so after sending various letters and getting no response.

The busing industry has over 300 drivers, with 85 percent of them being a part of the union. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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