“Twice a year, we have inspection – May and October – and I must say some of the cars need some assistance. However, most of the cars are in pretty good shape sometimes and we have pretty decent cars if you go and look at them, but we need help,” said former Grand Bahama Taxi Union President, James Kemp.
Kemp, who served eight consecutive terms in presidency, was voicing concerns regarding authorities’ recent call for taxi drivers to have new transportation fleets.
“Cab drivers are not financially stable to do so,” the former president maintained in a recent sit down with this daily.
“I am here to make an appeal to the government,” Kemp voiced, adding drivers have a proposed plan in place; however, the government’s assistance will be vital.
“We have plans in motion of bringing in some new vehicles, but it would not be in a month. So, we are asking you (government) to please help us out in the way of any assistance you can render.
“This is your livelihood, this is my livelihood,” he said. “As we know it, the taxi drivers are going through a tough time.”
Back in April (24), Deputy Controller of Road Traffic, Grand Bahama and Bimini Welbourne Bootle, spoke on the importance of not only revamping Grand Bahama, but transportation services for the future.
Despite the frequent difficulties of the drivers, Bootle said, “I want us to improve on our product and that is what we are not doing.
“I told some of them to upgrade their fleets, like the tour companies in Grand Bahama. I told them to get together as a union, put their resources together and give us better service.”
Now, Kemp informed that he is not only appealing on behalf of the Taxi Union but on behalf of cab drivers, including himself.
“I’m not speaking on behalf of the Taxi Union, but I am speaking on behalf of ‘City Cab,’ which I am the President and CEO of. So, I am involved in the business.
“We can’t afford to buy the two-storey buses, but we are trying. We give the service and it is our business, it is all about the taxis and we know the changes will come.
“At this time, we all know expectation is coming and we know what the fight with the tour buses is doing to us. It is killing us,” Kemp claimed. “But we would like to appeal to the government that we supported.
“We have five MPs (Members of Parliament) and we are appealing to you to please give us a time to at least work our way up,” Kemp appealed.
He noted that the government has been helpful in assisting community citizens with challenges and he’s appreciative, “and I must say instead of complaining, we are also thanking the government.
“We want to say thank you to the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, thank you to the Minister of Transport and Local Government, Renward Wells and all those who made the business license exempt this year.
“So, on behalf of all taxis throughout the country, we must say thanks and it was a good effort that was extended to us,” said Kemp.
“I don’t like to bash leadership because we have a union in place, but I brought it up because a lot of the members are concerned, especially when we have a lot of single ladies that cannot afford the repairs at this time.
“We are coming to them with a plan,” he reiterated.
“They wish the drivers would bring in new vehicles and pay for them and that can happen in short in order with some assistance, but that’s basically my reason.
“I have heard the drivers complain so much,” he maintained.
When asked if he thinks the union has the funds to help facilitate the new fleet of transportation, Kemp replied, no.
“Last year I was the patron of the Labour Day March from the NCT and the TUC, so it should say something I think. If I can use that platform to appeal on behalf of the trial, then I’ll do that.”
Kemp also raised the issue of rate increases for taxi drivers. “It’s almost 15 years since we have gotten anything.
“Right now, I must say the government as opposed to the last government is doing a tremendous job in working with us and trying with us. So, all I’m asking and appealing for is try and continue … we need you to make sure we get a little raise.
“Gas right now is killing us, insurance, the $800 on car license, you have to inspect your car and you have to service it, how shall we make it?” he asked.
“You have people coming from High Rock, even further East than that to drive taxi and sometimes it really hurts my heart to see that they have to go home, many days, without even making a fare. So, that’s all I am appealing.
“I know that the prime minister cares because he shows concern, but this is just something that has to be addressed,” Kemp stated.
As it relates to Kemp’s concern about fare increases, Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister Sen. J. Kwasi Thompson said that the increase for local drivers should come at the end of June.