Declaring that members of the Southern Minibus Association are frustrated over their current financial situation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of the organisation says the drivers are planning a protest beginning on Monday to draw attention to their plight.
But the President of the association, Philip Jn Baptiste, says he knows nothing of any protest and does not support it.
“Let them try their luck,” Jn Baptiste asserted.
In announcing the plan to protest from Monday, the Secretary of the Southern Minibus Association, Viani Jacob, said drivers wanted the public to know that they will be staging a sick out.
“All other associations have given us the green light that they will follow up with us,” Jacob told St Lucia Times.
“We cannot ask the government at this time for more passengers. I agree there is a rise in COVID but this time around we cannot tolerate that we are working – we didn’t get any amount of money from March when the COVID-19 started, we are now back at work. The borders were closed – we didn’t get any money when Soufriere and Vieux Fort were not working at all,” he explained.
“We are there with the ten passengers. We cannot maintain the buses, we cannot pay the bank. Drivers who were operating for owners cannot go at their home with anything that is substantial to pay their bills,” Jacob declared.
However association President Philip Jn Baptiste, in making it clear that he knows nothing about any planned protest, told St Lucia Times the only thing he is aware of was a meeting of the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT).
“We came back to the guys and told them the things that the government gave us – the inspections, they don’t have to do it. They gave us the money and said the other portion would be coming before Christmas. They gave us the waiver on the route permit and all these things,” Jn Baptiste explained.
He said the government has issued six permits to the Southern association for Christmas.
“Yes, I want the fourteen or fifteen passengers, but if they cannot do it yet and we see what is happening,” Jn Baptiste declared.
He said he was not going to jump the gun and protest for ‘political reasons’.
As far as Jn Baptiste was concerned, if things are already ‘tight’ for bus drivers, staging a sick out would not make the situation better.
Headline photo caption: Viani Jacob