Some 20 minibus operators yesterday staged a strike in Bartica, after the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) reassigned their First Avenue parking lot to hire cars.
Ronald Backer, Consultant to the United Minibus Union, explained that after receiving the information about the decision, he contacted NDC Chairman Gerald Joseph, who confirmed that the council has decided to move minibuses from their present parking facility. Backer asked Joseph to delay any action with regards to the parking lot for 30 days, during which representatives from the union would travel to Bartica to meet with the NDC. This request was denied. As a result, Backer explained, minibus operators have withdrawn their services.
He said that an offer was later made for a 14-day delay on the decision taking effect. This, he further noted, is acceptable. However, because of the attitude of the Chairman, Backer stated, the union wishes to have this agreement made in writing.
The minibuses have been moved from the busy market area to a Second Avenue location, which Backer noted is not properly prepared and is not considered economically feasible.
Joseph, however, noted that the two week reprieve was given so operators could inform their passengers that by July 7 they could be found on Second Avenue. He stated that the decision is final, adding “Order has to begin somewhere. Changes are not easily acceptable and sure they will be disgruntled for the time being and I understand that. But I want to compromise…that is why they have been given 14 days.”
Joseph indicated that two years ago, when there were just two minibuses operating in Bartica, the NDC decided to assign that parking facility to taxis. Since then, he noted, the hire cars and minibuses were co-existing.
However, he said, there has been an increase in the number of buses, which is now causing traffic congestion.
Joseph recalled a meeting that was held sometime between August and September last year, when bus operators were briefed on the situation and agreed to relocate. He said that it was only on Wednesday that a sign was placed and might have caused the protest.
Also, Joseph did admit that at the time the agreement was made, a promise was also made to have the Second Avenue location developed. This was supposed to be an effort between the NDC and the bus operators but he said that the council did not have the funds at the time to do so, while operators also did not uphold their end of the bargain. He apologised for the NDC.
According to Joseph, the new location is just about 20 feet away from the arcade, where passengers can easily board the buses. He said he hopes to have the area developed a bit within the next two weeks, when operators will have no option but to move.