WITH THE cruise tourism season nearing its end this month, taxi operators are expressing dissatisfaction at being snubbed despite having been encouraged by authorities to take a COVID-19 jab in order to get jobs.
“We were left out of the bubble,” Winston ‘Pops’ Morgan, president of the SVG Taxi Association told SEARCHLIGHT this week. “…They asked us to get vaccinated so we could be a part of a bubble and we hardly got any jobs although we got vaccinated and we were licensed by Tourism and so on.”
Morgan noted that work trickled in only for operators with 18 and 22-seater vehicles who were hired by cruise agents, while the smaller taxis were unable to secure any jobs.
“We talk about social distancing but can we really social distance in a vehicle? When we look, we see the buses going out full still. I think it was only a ploy to maximise their dollar and to forget about the small taxi drivers because in essence, they can put more in a big bus, and pay the big bus meagre wages as opposed to putting less in a taxi because you know the taxis are used to collecting the US dollar themselves,” the taxi association president said.
In preparation for this season, local authorities last June hosted a sensitisation session for taxi operators, who were encouraged to get vaccinated as they were the first point of contact for persons entering the country.
At present there are two active taxi associations locally, and both have indicated that more than half of their members decided to take the jab.
Morgan told SEARCHLIGHT that if he were to estimate, each taxi driver lost at least US$100 per ship during this season, as a result of not being able to ply their trade.
And he is expressing hope that better measures will be put in place in the future to ensure that operators will benefit more, as many of them “depend on that tourist dollar to pay bills and so on”.
“We hope for the season coming forward that we will go back to some semblance of normalcy… because people have their families to feed,” Morgan said. “I’m hoping that the persons in authority ensure that the bread is spread evenly across the table for the next season coming. I don’t want anybody to be hiding behind COVID-19 and bubble. We’ve gone past that.”