The local taxi service industry is at a standstill, and that is just one of the concerns of veteran cab driver James Kemp, owner of City Cab, a local taxi service.
In a recent interview with this daily, Kemp shared a few of those concerns and called on those in authority to, “fix it.”
Among his concerns is that of transportation network companies, which offer peer-to-peer ride sharing and ride service hailing such as Uber Technologies Inc., which has transformed the transportation industry in many cities across the world.
Kemp is of the view that if such services are allowed to be offered here, it will add salt to an already open wound to the taxi service industry here on the island.
“My concern at this time is the Uber taxis, because if they were to be regulated here it would mean death to the taxis here, period. We all know that everything that happens in the United States, we cannot take it on. This is tourism-based economy, the United States has almost 400 million people. Ubers have destroyed California and New York’s taxis, nearly every major city in the 52 states, they have destroyed; in Europe it is the same thing,” Kemp alleged.
“What is happening, the Uber drivers are not regulated, who knows who the drivers are, they may be drug users … that is my concern. As an operator, I must be registered under the (Grand Bahama) Port Authority, paying an exorbitant number of fees.”
Questioned if he has personally communicated his concerns regarding the possibility of Uber being regulated here, as well as the other concerns he has with the taxi industry to President of the Grand Bahama Taxi Union Harold Curry, he responded, “I support Mr. Curry being elected and I talk to him, when I can.
“Yes, I have addressed these issues to him; I am very concerned. Unlike the tour operators, I am a taxi driver; I have a taxi company. Freeport Taxi, I cannot speak for them, but I am sure that they are very concerned as well.
“To allow Uber or anyone else similar, will kill us. Freeport Taxi, along with myself, we have to pay a tremendous amount of money to the Port, that is not licensing each car and insuring each car,” he maintained.
“What do you do? We can only appeal to the public and hope that someone would recognize what we are going through.
“Ubers would be a destruction to the union members and to the taxi industry. We are not perfect, we have made a lot of mistakes over the years and I apologize on behalf of all of them, if I can; but Majority Rule came about, because of the taxi union and I can see it coming again.
“If the president (Curry) is agreeing with that, he needs to check it and understand what that would mean for us, if it is allowed. He cannot allow that one. That is all I am appealing for,” maintained Kemp.
He also expressed his view on an age-old concern that many local taxi drivers have expressed regarding tour operations and the crippling affect they say it is having on their livelihood.
“In addition, tour operators are claiming that the law stated that they could pick up their people, which were pre-arranged. Since then they have taken over the town and the taxi drivers cannot even get a job. We get the scrapping.
“Port Lucaya is dead, because the tour operators go and take the people to their own beach,” alleged Kemp.
“As Bahamians and as citizens, we cannot remain quiet. We have a president of our union, and I would like for him to tell us what is going on, because he is too quiet, people are beginning to take over and we are not saying anything.
“The drivers ask me every day to please say something on their behalf. However, on that note I must thank the government for what they have done so far. We just got a little raise after almost 20 years; Nassau was given two (raises), but we just received a little raise. We have five Members of Parliament here and the five knew what the situation was when they went in,” Kemp claimed.
“I have yet to hear one of them, and I will come out openly and say that I support them as my government.
“I support the prime minister (Dr. Hubert Minnis); I support all of them, I work for them and the thing about it is, that is here not there; but the taxi drivers overwhelmingly supported them, you can tell by the numbers. At the end of it, what do you get?
“The taxi drivers are hurting, insurance rates are crazy, Freeport is shut down and taxis are the only means and way out, what is going to be done?
“I have been quiet about what has been going on for too long and I will not be quiet anymore, because it is too hard,” added Kemp.
“I say to these five MPs that are doing a tremendous job for the country, but we (taxi drivers) are dying, we need your help again. We must thank you for all that you have done; you have allowed us to go this year without paying the license fees, which was a tremendous help and now you have given us an increase.
“The government is working, but you have people under the government … We are in trouble; everyone is afraid to talk because they will be penalized and it is sad,” he claimed.
During his time as an executive in the Grand Bahama Taxi Union, Kemp shared that the union worked in tandem with like unions in New Providence. He is of the view that such unison is again needed.
“It seems like that is missing, but you have to work with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTU). On that note, I have to thank Mr. Kirk Russell and Quinton LaRoda, under the umbrella unions. They are sounding the alarm, but we need to take it further.
“We are hurting, the taxi drivers out there today, some come from High Rock; some come from Pelican Point, at the end of the day they sometimes go home without a job.”
In conclusion regarding the long-standing battle between tour operators and taxi drivers, Kemp maintained, “We need help, we need the government to fix this once and for all.”
Kemp is of the view that too many persons are involved in the business that should not be.
“Everyone needs to sit down, with all of the players that be and fix it once and for all. Fix it!” he stated.