I REFER to the letter column of the Guyana Chronicle dated Monday, February 10, 2020; an article written by one Sahadeo Bates captioned ‘Do something about Minibus touting’. The United Minibus Union (UMU) would like to congratulate Mr. Bates for his very factual and lucid article but there are some parts of his missive that I would like to clarify.
We agree that commuters continue to be forced to endure abuse by minibus ‘touts’ and operators. Need I remind you that the UMU has said and continues to maintain that we have zero tolerance for soliciting ‘touting.’ To minimise and eventually eradicate this scourge among other ills from our public transportation sector, a partnership was cemented among the Ministry of Business (Department of Consumer Affairs), the Guyana Police Force, U.M.U and the Guyana National Road Safety Council which resulted in the creation of a Code of Conduct that will regulate the relationship between public transportation service providers ( Minibus/hire care) and the travelling public, that requires exemplary conduct by members of this sector while they are serving commuters.
This Code of Conduct, which was launched in February 2019, was also meant to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of public transportation and to make the system accessible to all commuters on a non-discriminatory basis. Mr. Bates, of the four stakeholders aforementioned, the GNRSC and the UMU are not empowered by an Act under the Laws of Guyana that gives the powers to enforce; the UMU more or less have to work on its members conscience with a view to eradicating the inherent culture of lawlessness and greed, that is normally embraced as a hustle, by most of the operators.
The UMU in keeping with Clause 4:1 of the Code of Conduct that reads ‘Display professionalism, be a part of an association, wear a uniform and an identity badge/card’ has uniformed members in Berbice (Route #56), Bartica (Route #73), Hospital/ Lamaha (Route #45), Patentia (Route #31), Timehri (Route #42) and the University of Guyana (Route #44) and we are having reasonable success in this department. However, we have noted that your concern seems to be “touting” at the Sophia, Kitty and Campbellville parks by some persons whom you easily identified as members of the UMU by their apparel. That is what makes being uniformed so important, that you could’ve identified them. It is now for the leaders of the Union’s Sophia branch to rope in those persons, report them to the Union and we will have them expelled. However, the other action that ought to have been taken is that they should have been arrested and charged by the police. Soliciting passengers by any Minibus Transportation Service Provider including our dispatchers or “touts” is against the Law.
The good policemen do their jobs but they are also faced with challenges, for example, “touts” who are connected, Court fines that are ridiculously low and persons with conductor licence who are rescued by the bus drivers closest to them as that bus conductor. What is very disturbing, however, is that on your daily travels you saw the anomaly while the Branch Executives nor the police did [not].
The Ministry of Business and the other stakeholders in the latter part of 2019 trained more than 200 minibus operators in safe driving, hospitality, and other related areas at the Police “Zara” Training Centre. Those operators will be graduating shortly and the training of more operators will continue. Finally, we would like to make it clear that repairing this broken system requires a partnership that otherwise to the Statutory bodies must include the commuters and the general public at large, as we all have an important role to play if we are to successfully salvage a sector that embraces indiscipline as a culture.
United Minibus Union