NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The head of the Bahamas Taxicab Union is urging the government to effectively maintain the decades long practice of leasing taxi plates, describing the issue as a ‘quagmire’ which will prove cumbersome for the government to address.
BTU president Wesley Ferguson told Eyewitness News Online the union took issue with recent statements by Transport and Local Government Minister Renward Wells, which suggested government would not only hold firm to its plans to lift the moratorium on taxi plates, but also end the practice of leasing them.
Ferguson expressed dismay the union had no involvement in the matter and warned the government not to take that route because “they could be out of office before it is resolved”.
“I have made several attempts to speak with Mr Wells,” he said.
“The commission met more than a month ago. Since then I have heard nothing from the Minister until Tuesday when he made the statement.
He continued: “It puts the union in a precarious situation as members will now flock to the union to find out the situation with the taxi plates and the minister has given me no information.
“The union has not been consulted on this. The union had no involvement. I had told the drivers that the government was working assiduously to get this issue sorted out. I could have led them in a safer direction on this issue.”
Back in June, Minister Wells announced in Parliament the establishment of a Cabinet sub-committee consisting of six ministers tasked to make recommendations regarding issues pertaining to recalling of all plates, inactive plates, renewal of franchises, and plates in estates.
“They didn’t consult with the taxi union at all. They formed a commission, the commission met with no input from the union, a decision was made and is now at Cabinet level,” Ferguson said yesterday.
“We should be leading the government on this issue because we know the industry.
“Our suggestion to the government was that they not take the plates from those persons who are leasing. No government can untangle this.”
He continued: “Some of these plates are owned by top government officials, government workers and police officers. You also have plates owned by taxi drivers now deceased and their widows are depending heavily on the income derived from leasing.
“It’s a sticky situation for the government to get into. You can’t take plates from some and leave others, it should be across the board.
“I suggested to government that they not take that route; it’s too cumbersome it’s a legal matter and they could be out of office before it is resolved.
Ferguson said: “There are about 200 plates already issued and under the Road Traffic Controller’s control. All I’m saying is issue those plates back, lift the moratorium and leave the leasing issue alone.”
Some 1,000 taxi plates are presently in circulation.
Minister Wells told reporters on Tuesday that leasing taxi plates is illegal.