Vandrivers/operators across St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are prepared to withdraw their services until their requests are met.
Omnibus operators are requesting that van capacity be increased from eight (including conductor) passengers to twelve.
President of the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS), Royron Adams, spoke on the #WakeUpCall with Christal and Tha Fugitive this morning, informing that omnibus operators across SVG are prepared to withdraw their services until van capacity is increased.
Operators reportedly orchestrated a strike, beginning today for three days. When asked about this, Adams said, “I don’t know where that information came from with respect to three days strike, but what I would say to you is, our position is that we are willing to withstand and withdraw our services until we get our capacity back up to twelve.”
The government decreased van capacity by half, in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Adams acknowledged that operators have been defying the protocols.
“We’ve tried for the last two months carrying eight passengers, and I would be clear on this, all of the buses that were operating were breaking the protocols. There’s none of them that can look me in my eyes and tell me they were operating and not breaking the protocols.”
“…They are breaking the protocols because they know carrying eight is not profitable, so the only way that they’re operating is that they know they are going to take the risk of breaking the protocols. Those who are unfortunate enough to get the ticket, they pay the penalty.”
Economics and convenience are always in play, Adams said, noting that the association pointed out two-three weeks go that “operating with eight passengers is just unprofitable and if minibuses were to take a strict business approach to their operation, all of us would be off the road… that is not a question.”
According to the VINTAS President, the government promised to review the capacity protocol and respond. “Obviously that has not been done, we’ve got no favourable response,” Adams informed.
He shared that the association has yet to receive a written statement from the government. A $500 subsidy for omnibus operators has been agreed upon, which Adams said he was informed of by a phone call from the prime minister.
“That subsidy support comes with conditions. Conditions of course which we believe also is very punitive, which means every bus must work four out of every five week days,” Adams said, noting that this is not a guarantee for many reasons, citing unforeseen complications such as mechanical issues, and so, wants that condition removed.
Adams shared a few requests that were made to the government on Friday (March 5), for which they are awaiting a response.
- Establishing a sanitization station in Georgetown to accommodate the Georgetown-Kingstown route and beyond the Rabacca Dry River.
- The reconstruction of a laboratory in Georgetown that was demolished during the construction of the Rabacca Dry River. “We need that reconstructed. Because this is where the Kingstown-Georgetown route and over the river all congregate to ply their trade and there is absolutely no sense of public relief there, so that laboratory is critical.”
- Sanitization stations in the Grenadines. “We also asked them to look at the Grenadines, mainly Canouan and Bequia where there is no sanitization station as far as we’ve been advised.”
Adams stated that the government has shown that it’s willing to favourably consider different sectors for increase in capacity, making reference to churches being allowed to now carry one-third of their capacity.
“No disrespect to religion and churches, I am saying that as a sector, the churches are not creating the mass employment and moving people and as critical as the minibus sector. And if you could show favourable consideration to that sector and given them a third capacity and accepting the fact that there can be no social distancing in any vehicle, then I believe that we as a sector should be given the opportunity to ply our trade with a capacity that is reasonable enough to make a decent return on a daily basis and a minimum of twelve capacity meets that threshold,” Adams expressed.
Asked what happens if operators do not get a favourable response from the government, Adams said:
“Our position is quite clear, we are prepared to ride this out until we can get twelve capacity. There’s no way the industry could be successful and given a chance to operate profitable without having to break the law, break the protocol and avoid the police at every corner…. There has to be sacrifice.”