PSVs end protest after meeting with Lashley
Minivans and ZRs will be back on the road in full force tomorrow after owners and operators called off a two-day strike today.
The Joint Committee of the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) and the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) agreed to call off the strike when they met today with Minister of Transport & Works Michael Lashley at his office in The Pine.
Both Lashley and commuters were taken by surprise yesterday as privately-owned public service vehicle (PSV) operators responded, in a limited way, to calls for them to withdraw their services, ahead of a meeting today to discuss with the minister, a number of vexing issues.
Spokesperson for the owners and operators Ingrid King had accused the minister of stalling on the outstanding grievances, which include duty free concessions for the importation of new buses; a request for outbound buses to use Baxters Road, and for inbound vehicles to be allowed to pick up passengers on Tudor Street, The City, and for the private PSV owners to be represented on the board of the state-run Barbados Transport Authority.
Following today’s talks King said the meeting was cordial and owners were satisfied with the explanations given for the lack of action by Government.
“Our advice to them [operators] would be that we believe they can go back to work because we have a reasonable explanation why it has taken this long. A lot of it had to do with matters which were outside of the control of the ministry,” King explained.
The PSV spokesperson did not reveal the explanations put forward by the minister, saying this would breach the confidentiality of the negotiating process.
However, she said a site visit would be conducted on Monday “as to what is going on and it would surely put us on the path to making that decision in short time”.
Lashley, who yesterday had accused the owners and operators of negotiating in bad faith, said today’s talks were open and frank.
“We can term today’s meeting as a very successful one. Coming out of the meeting today, we took some positions that on Monday there would be a further meeting with the sub-committee, which was set up from previous meetings we had. They would be looking at matters raised by the PSV operators, particularly the Baxters Road issue. Now we have received correspondence from the Commissioner of Police and based on that correspondence we have to do further consultation with stakeholders and we will see how it goes,” he said, without disclosing the information in the police commissioner’s correspondence.
“With regards to request for representation on the Transport Board, that is receiving very active consideration and we will report to the PSV bodies very soon on that,” he added.
The minister also revealed that his department would conduct a tour of the River van stand as well as to update the operators on the status of that project.
He said the owners had also agreed to work with the authorities to stamp out disorderly conduct by drivers and conductors.
“We also agreed that any issue, which falls at the doorstep of the Ministry of Transport & Works they would work assiduously in reporting it to the authorities . . . .This way we can lessen the discomfort between operators and arms of the State,” Lashley added, committing to quarterly meetings with the stakeholders.
While speaking at a meeting of the St James South constituency branch of his ruling Democratic Labour Party on Sunday night, Lashley had promised an end to chaos and disorder at the van stand when the new $3.5 million state-of-the-art River Bus Terminal becomes operational.
He also said then that he was willing to work with the owners and operators but was not prepared to entertain absurd requests from them.
That comment was in reference to an apparent request from the PSV drivers and conductors for Lashley to help resolve an issue surrounding steep court fines for transgressions on the road.
Neither Lashley nor King indicated whether that issue was raised at today’s talks.