By Youri Kemp
Tribune Business Reporter
A union leader yesterday said jitney drivers must “see the bigger picture” and stop complaining over the industry’s COVID-19 enforced shutdown.
Rudolph Taylor, the Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union’s (BUDU) president, told Tribune Business that members had “a good discussion last week” with Renward Wells, minister of transport and local government, and accepted the public transportation closure was vital to protecting lives and health.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the bus drivers in terms of why they are complaining, but I know nobody should be complaining because, at the end of the day, they are looking at, I guess, their finances, but in every part of the world, everybody who sees what’s going on with this COVID-19 is doing what needs to be done in order to avoid the spread,” Mr Taylor said.
“So they can complain, and that’s their freedom to complain, but at the end of the day the government runs the bussing system, so to speak, and if it is their choice to do such, who am I to say they shouldn’t do it?
“It’s not my place. They are looking out for the best interest of the country at large, and I was told it [COVID-19] was taking over the world, so I have no problem with it, and those who are complaining should stop complaining and take it for what it is, and see the importance of what is being done.”
As for when jitney services will likely resume, Mr Taylor said: “We can’t say right off-hand, but we will know by March 31 whether the government is going to lift the ban or extend it. But it is up to the government at this time because we can’t dictate to the government. The government has the last sa,y so to speak.”
Mr Taylor said it was only the BUDU, its members and union heads who met with Mr Wells last week. “Some persons are not seeing the bigger picture of this pandemic,” he reiterated. “Like he said, that’s why we ended up with the 24-hour curfew, because some persons are taking it very lightly and some persons are very selfish.
“They don’t think of the consequences for others once they can make the money, so to hell with everybody else. That’s how some of them feel. I told them if they want to disobey the orders, it’s on them and they can feel free to go ahead, but just know that there are consequences for your actions.”
Harrison Moxey, the United Public Transportation Company’s (UPTC) president, yesterday also backed the public transportation shut down as “necessary”. He added: “He [Mr Wells] spoke with the bus drivers union. He came to the agreement with them, but we are in support of that because of the virus threat.
“He did speak to me when he was saying that, so I did understand it and what it means. You know, the busses are in a very unique situation. People boarding busses very close, the driver is at risk and other passengers are at risk. I wasn’t in that meeting with him for two hours with the BUDU. I represent franchise holders and operators.”
Mr Wells, speaking ahead of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, said: “We did have a discussion with the union of bus drivers; a two-hour discussion with them on Friday morning. Remember we have an objective here, as an administration and as a government. Our first and primary focus and responsibility is the protection of the life of the Bahamian people.
“So we took the decision that in order to try and flatten out the curve, and in order to be able to ensure that we have a level of control over what obviously the world is grappling with right now, public transportation had to be shut down.”
Mr Wells added: “We know that Bahamians are extremely industrious. The Bahamian people are brilliant. We are the most bold, beautiful, brilliant people on the planet. We have family members and those who would have taken the public transportation system normally, and they would be able to get assistance from family members and others who would be able to drive them to the requisite places that they would need to go.
“Remember now, the government only have so many places that we had agreed to allow the Bahamian people to access, so within the confines of that we decided to make sure public transportation system as well was shut down to be able to control the spread of COVID-19.”