Minibus operators have written to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Minister of Transport and Works Montgomery Daniel advising them that they will be withdrawing their service from Monday.
Breadfruit News has learnt that President of the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS), Royron Adams informed the government this week of their intentions in a letter.
Following similar actions last month when minibus operators withdrew their service, the government agreed to offer two (2) months subsidy of $500.00.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said at the time:
“I told them that we will give them a subsidy, a temporary subsidy at a number not less than what they got last year. That’s what I told them. I’m not a beast. I overs what’s happening and despite the difficult circumstances, we have to help.”
However, minibus operators want more from the government. The upcoming withdrawal of service is intended to force the government to increase the maximum number of passengers the standard minibus is allowed to carry.
To manage the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities here have limited minibus operators to carry a maximum of 8 passengers in an 18-seater omnibus.
Operators have lodged strong objections to this regulation noting that the industry cannot survive prolonged indifference to the cost of operations faced by operators.
The letter which was emailed to the Prime Minister is said to contain new proposals for the government to consider including permission to carry 12 or 14 passengers in addition to the $500.00 monthly subsidy.
One van operator speaking to BreadFruit News said that during this period, “van men have been working for gas stations and the treasury. Police officers have been out in full force since they increased ticket fees to $100. They come on the road with a target in mind for praise in their office.”
“The government giving us $500 in one hand and the police men taking it back with another hand hiding in all sorts of places to give van men ticket.”
While VINTAS is aiming for three (3) days of action, some operators have been mobilising fellow van owners and drivers to apply maximum pressure on the government if necessary.