Taxi operators say police harassment caused strike but commuters unsupportive

Taxi operators. Courtesy of Jodi-Ann Small.

Public passenger operators went on strike on Monday after the government said they had until 1 December 2022 to pay for all outstanding traffic tickets without penalty. The strike was set to take place for three days in the hope that the government would give them an amnesty for their traffic tickets. However, the government has remained steadfast in its decision for all the operators to pay for their outstanding tickets.

Even though it was announced as an all-island strike, not every taxi operator went on strike as some felt it was unnecessary for the drivers who did not have any outstanding tickets to be protesting. A taxi driver who had remained at home had this to say “I don’t owe no ticket, but some are protesting because they need more time to pay for their tickets”. He pointed to the fact that “some a di ticket weh dem get unlawful, dem neva did affi get most a dem ticket deh, some simple petty reasons, police target we out a all di vehicle dem pan di road, and a true dat. When police or transport authority stop we, dem no allow we fi talk, dem just dish out the ticket dem, a 3 ticket me get last week fi nothing’, said the disgruntled taxi operator.

Public passenger operators have said that they feel that they have no rights on the road, and once they had a red plate they were discriminated against. A May Pen taxi operator said his driver’s badge had expired and he visited the Transport Authority office on more than two occasions to have it renewed. The office told him that no date has been set to do the test to have the badge renewed and he must return another time. The taxi operator was stopped later that day and given a ticket for his expired badge. “Tru we a red plate, people look at taxi drivers as the worse and duncest set a people on the road, we have no talk and nobody nuh listen to we, that ticket a di transport authority fault”, the taxi operator remarked.

They are only asking the government to give them more time to pay off their tickets or give them an amnesty. However, no amnesty or time has been given and before the three-day strike was up, public passenger vehicles were back on the road by Wednesday.

A commuter from Mandeville said the strike had not affected the town, “it’s business as usual”. Another commuter from St James shared, “there are some taxis on the road, there isn’t much unity on the road because some taxis are coming from Trelawny, St Ann and Hanover. I called my taxi this morning and he says he is not working so he does not know how she is going to get to work”, said the St James commuter.

Alecia Graham who works at the Sutherland Call Center in Mandeville, but lives in May Pen, said her workplace sent the company vehicle to pick up their workers on Monday, but on Tuesday she was able to take a taxi to work. Just like St James taxi operators, not all taxis in May Pen were on strike and partying in the town center, some were still in work mode

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