The Saint Lucia bus strike which began Monday has ended with drivers asserting that they will all be back at work Wednesday.
The Secretary of the Southern Minibus Association, Viani Jacob, told reporters that the protesting drivers had a ‘very good’ meeting with the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT).
“We had our differences but we came to a conclusion where we will go back to work,” Jacob told reporters.
“We have until the month of January for negotiations so we can get what we’re looking for,” he disclosed.
Jacob’s association initiated the strike in furtherance of calls for bus drivers to either be allowed to carry full loads or get some form of compensation, or both.
The strike spread to other mini bus associations which joined as an expression of solidarity, asserting that bus operators were incurring substantial losses due to limits on passenger numbers mandated by current COVID-19 protocols.
The drivers have made it clear that a ten passenger limit is unacceptable.
“What we’re looking for is our fifteen passengers and some other way of compensation,” Viani Jacob explained.
But he acknowledged that the disgruntled drivers may not be able to get all they are requesting.
He expressed the view that if passengers observe sanitisation guidelines and wear masks, it would address concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
The Gros Islet Mini Bus Association which supported the bus strike, appeared to be skeptical about assurances that prompted the protest action to be called off.
President Danny Edward said he was curious to see how matters would unfold, since the words of Transport Minister Guy Joseph and the NCOPT were not put in writing.
Nevertheless, he explained that bus operators would adopt a wait and see approach.
Edward asserted that something good came out of the strike.
He told reporters that bus drivers had made their point.
“The City is actually like a war zone – very quiet,” Edward said.
The First Vice President of the NCOPT, Kentry Frederick, said the organisation had a meeting with the Vieux Fort Minibus Association whose members expressed their concerns.
“The main ingredient here was a bit of misinformation between some executive members and the general body,” Frederick explained.
“It must be noted that what they are requesting is what we have been negotiating all along,” he said.
Headline photo caption: Bus drivers