Virtually no work! Taxi operators complain they are being sidelined as cruise season heats up

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Despite the increase in the number of cruise ships to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in recent months, local taxi operators continue to feel squeezed out of an industry from which most, if not the most, originates. all of their income.

The presidents of the two local taxi associations told SEARCHLIGHT this week that this season’s work is only crumbling, although most taxi operators have taken the necessary steps to ensure they are following protocols. COVID-19 cruise lines established.

Cruise ship agents, who also organize tours for passengers, are also believed to have the most control over the industry.

“Don’t tell me these guys are going to get the vaccine and they can’t find a job. It is unfair. I do not speak for myself. I am not vaccinated but I speak on behalf of my members who feel the weight at the end of it, ”Arrington Burgin, president of the SVG Professionals Taxi Association told SEARCHLIGHT in an interview this week.

Burgin noted that only taxis with 18 seats are used by tour operators, leaving out taxis which have a smaller number of seats.

The president of the SVG Professionals Taxi Association also accused a specific company of paying some taxi operators at a rate and others at a lower rate.

“The government is not helping. We tried to negotiate and try but they don’t see us. They make the public feel like they are so much with us and want to help but they don’t want to help us. They don’t, ”Burgin said.

The president said just over 50 percent of his association’s members are vaccinated.

And for him, a reasonable arrangement would imply that the operators of vaccinated taxis operate within the cruise bubble and without the involvement of tour operators.

“I don’t have a problem with the bubble but when Coreas determines who works and who doesn’t, it’s unfair and if they don’t want them to go out in the street, that’s fine, but the drivers taxi cabs that are vaccinated should be allowed to enter the port, whether you allow five at a time, and when people come out they leave with those five, then another group is allowed in, which is vaccinated, ”he said. he added.

The country’s tourism minister, Carlos James, announced two changes to cruise protocols in November; one of which allows passengers to disembark and visit the sites freely with limited restrictions.

James, who was speaking at a press conference, said he believed these bubble-free tours would help create more jobs for local taxi operators who might want to take cruise passengers to places and sites which are not necessarily part of the reservations of local agents.

But according to SVG Taxi Association president Winston “Pops” Morgan, these opportunities have been scarce since the announcement.

“We have about a couple of guys who have found a job and it’s not really an improvement or a return to what we’re used to and we would really like people to retire. I mean we got vaccinated, we followed all the protocols. We are licensed by the Tourism Authority and would like us to operate within the bubble, ”Morgan told SEARCHLIGHT.

“People are pulling out, hire us if they have reserved places where they can go in the bubble, that we take these people there and they get back to the ships safely. But as it is, we are not getting any of that, added the president.

Like Burgin, Morgan also said the bubble system gives agents significant control over the industry.

And in addition to looking for work through cruise agents, Morgan said taxi operators have to wait weeks to get paid.

He added that some drivers have been waiting for at least five weeks to be paid by a particular agency.

“To me, the Tourism Authority acts like it’s useless about this. They know they are authorizing us and we have to license and adhere to protocols and so on. all the power, ”he said, adding that about 70 percent of its members are fully vaccinated.

Morgan also said that “there are those who do tricks and laugh at those who took the vaccines and so on because they now say you take the vaccine and you don’t get a job just like them who did not take this.

“And we are told that the government has relaxed the protocols so that people can leave and access the sites, but the ships say no, they want everything in a bubble,” he added.

Over 200 cruise stopovers are expected to be made at SVG this season. In at least 13 of these cases, ships will make their first stopover at destination.

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