Former Grand Bahama Taxi Union (GBTU) General Secretary, Zendall Roberts believes that ground transportation on the island is in dire need of restructuring.
In an interview with this daily on Thursday, June 6, Roberts raised concerns relating to Grand Bahama’s ground transportation and operation of taxi and tour companies.
Admitting that he is presently not a member of the GBTU, however, Roberts said that he wants see the union more organized, law abiding and in an upstanding manner.
Reminiscing on his time served in 1992, Roberts shared that he along with former president, James Kemp stopped the operation of ground transportation to make a statement on behalf of the union.
“First, we have to stop our buses, then look at ourselves, look at our hygiene and our attitude towards each other, once we deal with these issues, only then can we deal with other problems, then we can say okay, let’s deal with the other problems.
“I would advise the president to arrange a meeting with the Road Traffic Department, the Minister of State, Senator J. Kwasi Thompson; Minister of Tourism, Dionisio D’Aguilar; Superintendent Robert Lloyd from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and all those involved in ground transportation. I think they should sit down and talk, because there is enough to share with everybody.
“Let us look at the law and enforce the law,” he stated.
Roberts maintained that once the law is enforced, “we can go by and say, okay we have a few ships coming in, the union can now reach out to the tour operators informing them of the ship or airline arrivals. Then the union can delegate the transportation assignment to all of them, meaning that everyone would be able to get a piece of the pie in a smooth and safe setting, not one company taking everything.
“Back in 1992, while sitting in the capacity of General Secretary of the Grand Bahama Taxi Union, we went through something similar like what the drivers are experiencing now, but it was solved because Mr. Kemp and I sat down with the then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and all five members of Parliament for Grand Bahama at that time – C. A. Smith (Minister for Transportation and Aviation), David Thompson, Kenneth Russell, Neko Grant and David Wallace.
“We outlined the law as drafted in the Road Traffic Act, as it relates to ground transportation, whereas the prearranged passengers are the passengers that can be transported by the tour companies from our ports of call, all other passengers should go in the taxies.
“Ingraham told us that we have to first stop our buses from transporting passengers and we did, and when we did it, we stopped all the buses from running at the harbour and the airport unless they came to pick up prearranged passengers,” Roberts claimed.
“When we stopped the buses it was great, because each driver was able to take money home, including all the tour operators … not like today, where most of the drivers are not taking anything home.”
During that time, the agreement, Roberts maintained he and Kemp set a precedence in the Taxi Union profitting all taxi drivers.
Roberts furthered that he, the former president and the membership had a format set up, where the Chairman at that time could only take a job leading up to a certain period.
“After 20 taxis were able to pick up passengers then the Chairman, during that time, would then get his pickup. If he or she (the Chairperson) got a round-trip job from a particular ship and if another ship came in later, then he would get a luggage job.
“But today the cries from the taxis are those out there in leadership are taking jobs daily, they are operating more than one taxi and it is alleged that all of their vehicles are allowed to go out to the ship and get the job of their choice. Meanwhile, the members who they are to be assisting, goes home empty handed and that is not fair,” Roberts maintained.
“Those who were elected ran on a platform to assist or to help the drivers, but it seems they are only looking out for the benefit of themselves,” he alleged.
“The drivers asked for my assistance with this because Mr. Kemp and I broke a deal with the tour company before and I am passionate about the union, because of my father Samuel Roberts, Andrew Munnings, Ruben and Austin Roberts, Spike Mackey, Everett Finley, Leroy Bowe, Tommy Nesbitt, Clifford and Evert Eden and a host of other drivers, they were men who stood up and fought, so that we as drivers could get a piece of the pie.
Roberts maintained that ground transportation and operations have deteriorated. “From 1992 to now, it seems like everything has deteriorated and we fell right back into the same dismay that Mr. Kemp and I met it in.
“In 1992 when the tour companies realized that the laws were going to be enforced as it relates to the Road Traffic Act, being that the only passengers that they would be allowed to transport from our port of calls must be classified as prearranged, they took other measures and threatened to sue.
“But with the authorities, myself and Mr. Kemp we made a gentleman’s agreement as to the above and it all worked out. I don’t want to see the union doors close and I know if the doors are closed, the taxi drivers are not going to get anything on the island.
“The only thing that is saving them is the union and some of the leaders standing up and fighting, but if the members would get together, clean up their act, instead of fighting one another and fight for each other, things would be better,” said Roberts.
“This can work because we made it work in the past, all we have to do is weed out all the bad apples, sit down and reason, and everyone will be happy.
“Like in the past, we in the union set policies and they coincided with our laws, all rates were set in accordance to what our government set.
“To those in authority,” Roberts concluded, “remember there is strength in unity, let us work together to keep the money in our country, let us work smart not hard.”