Taxi-cab drivers lead protest to parliament

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Fed-up with their reported unfair treatment and poor working conditions which have spanned decades, members of the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union led a protest on Wednesday, taking their concerns to the downtown area outside the House of Assembly.

The irate drivers swarmed parliamentarians, hoping to get some resolution to their long-standing issues.

“The country is on lock when it comes to taxi driving today, so if we have 900 taxi drivers on the road today we have 900 demonstrators,” said President of the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union, Wesley Ferguson at yesterday’s protest.

The taxi drivers initially gathered at the downtown port area and eventually moved to Parliament Square, to protest what they termed to be ‘years of unresolved issues’.

Ferguson highlighted the union’s concerns a few weeks ago, telling Eyewitness News Online that they were experiencing many issues, mainly with limousine drivers and private operators who were reportedly taking away most their business.

Ferguson also claimed that persons driving rental cars were posing as taxi cab drivers and stealing their business because they both shared the same colour license plates.

The union head said he reached out to the Ministry of Labour for assistance, but they were only able to act as a negotiator as taxi drivers fall under the ‘self-employment’ category and it was therefore out of the ministry’s jurisdiction.

Ferguson said he was then led to reach out to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis for answers.

Minnis, he said, promised to meet with him when he returned from his trip to Brussels some two weeks ago,  but to date, there has been no communication.

On Tuesday, in an attempt to reach out yet again, taxi drivers encircled the prime minister’s vehicle and waited for him to come out of his Cabinet meeting. This attempt, however, proved futile.

Yesterday, Ferguson said the union had no other choice but to lead a protest on Wednesday.

According to Ferguson, every taxi stand in Nassau was blocked on Wednesday. He said if the union was granted just one meeting with the prime minister, yesterday’s protest would not have happened.

“The prime minister wants to play hardball with us and of course taxi drivers are hardball players,” Ferguson said.

He added that the issue has gotten so bad that the only way to reach some resolution is for the prime minister to reach out and speak to him and his colleagues.

“Not in private no more,” Ferguson said. “Come to the taxi drivers and talk to us out in the open and he [Minnis] will be able to diffuse this [protest] and we will go on.

“But if he doesn’t live up to his promise, we will mobilize ourselves again and do it again.”

Ferguson added that amidst their struggle for negotiations, more challenges are brewing.

“You have Baha Mar where I just got a call this morning that human faeces are spewing up out of the ground in the taxi stand, and they have to huddle up in the corner to avoid the rain,” Ferguson claimed.

Percy McPhee, a taxi driver who operates his services at the port, complained that drivers are being unfairly ticketed.

“There is no law about any taxi driver speaking to anybody about anything in this area, but if they [the police] see you speaking to anybody they will give you another ticket.”

Meanwhile when asked how long he and collogues plan to protest, Ferguson said, “As long as it takes.”