Some bus drivers yesterday called on Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to allow them to operate, for their sake and that of Bahamians who rely on bus transportation to move around.
Corvell Colebrooke, secretary general of the Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union, said he doesn’t understand why the latest emergency order allows taxis to operate, but not buses.
“We don’t really understand that ourselves, because if you look at it, taxi drivers do not cater to the public,” he said.
“Taxi drivers cater to tourists. There are no tourists in town. The price to catch a taxi, [people] who are going to the food store…or to work, to the clinic, cannot pay that $10 or $20 a time going to where they have to go and then having to pay that to get back.”
Colebrooke said bus drivers were following all the protocols in place to be allowed to operate before they were shut down at the end of July due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas.
“We were taken off the road July 28 with no notice at all,” he said.
“After 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning.
“We’re asking that the prime minister please take a firm look at this matter and consider that hackers…are charging people $10 to $20 to go where they need to go. The bus right now is only $1.25.
“It’s more feasible for these people to get to work using the bus instead of having to walk an hour to their jobs and then stay on their feet another eight hours to work all day and then hope they get a ride home or walk back home.
“So, prime minister, we are out here today, a few of my members, pleading with you to please take a look at the situation. We already have followed all the protocols that we set in place. We have an agreement with the Ministry of Transportation.
“Our buses were [equipped] with the proper signage, proper sanitation devices for the passenger. We were cleaning our buses on time and we were obeying the rules of only 15 persons per bus.”
He added, “We were feeling disrespected 7 a.m. on July 28. The prime minister has not yet apologized for that. We are still feeling disrespected.”
Sean Lewis, who has been driving a bus for 12 years, said months of unemployment is taking a toll on him.
“For me, I’ve been out of work now for five and a half months,” Lewis said.
“The two weeks I opened up was when the country opened up in July. One week, I rode for free, giving back to essential workers and the public. The other two weeks, I tried to scrap a dollar or two.
“…I haven’t paid a bill in a long time. Banks are calling me asking when I’m going to start putting down payments. I told them when I start making money, that’s when I can start paying but right now I can’t even worry about banks because I have to pay my light bill and cable bill and stuff like that.
“…What I see right now, this is unfair to bus owners and franchise owners. He’s giving taxi drivers the green light to work.”
He added, “Our buses are outfitted with all the things that the government requires of us. I put my last few dollars out to license my bus for June. Here it is now I can’t work. It’s at a point right now I’m ready to implode from the pressure of life right now – as a father, as a man, I’m ready to implode. It’s rough.”
Javado Bain said he’s struggling to purchase groceries for his family at this point.
“Right now, I have four kids and it’s really hard to support my family,” he said.
“Bills are piling up – light, water, cable, phone, everything. Everything is just piling up. It’s hard to buy food because we don’t have any funds as bus drivers in the public service system right now.”
Cedric Poitier said that while National Insurance Board (NIB) payments have been helpful,those payments are not enough to support him and his family.
He said his savings have been depleted and he’s “scraping the bottom of the barrel”, as he urged Minnis to consider allowing buses to operate.
“It leaves me in a state that I cannot provide for my family,” Poitier said.
“It’s really difficult. Even with the NIB payout, it’s still, you know, it barely grasps my bills.”