More busmen protesters take the streets in Grenada

By Rumi Samuel Published on August 09, 2021
More busmen protesters take the streets in Grenada

More protests were held on the streets of the Grenada capital this week.

The new issue – the continued high cost of fuel that members of the transportation sector say is crippling their chances at survival.

The National Bus Association (NBA) marched through St George’s Wednesday, ending with a picket outside St George’s Bus Terminus.

The busmen are demanding that the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration take less, upfront, on the sale of petrol to meet their financial commitments better.

They are also angry over the conditions of the roads and what they view as continued disrespect from the government in dealing with bus operators as stakeholders in the transportation sector.

Busmen have been included in the Government’s $36million stimulus package that is set to roll out with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank-Caribbean Development Bank Global Loan Program.

They will receive support in the form of soft loans to cover their outstanding loan payments at financial institutions that had granted debtors moratoriums in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The loan amount is up to $40 000 with a three-year grace period and 12 years repayment period.

Reacting to this news Wednesday, some of the bus operators involved in protest action said this is not what they want from the government but long-term concessions that would lower their operating costs.

They expressed concern about the support coming in more debt. Still, Finance Minister Gregory Bowen, speaking at a Post Cabinet news conference also held on Wednesday, said the bus owners accepted the moratorium from their banks when it was offered.

Commenting on the demand for lower fuel prices, Minister Bowen said this would not happen since the loss of revenue will affect other areas that the government has to finance.

The government receives 5.50 cents on every gallon of gas at the pumps, which is fixed in law.

Minister Bowen said they could not change the law for just one section of the population, nor is the government willing to give up revenue at this time when the economy is suffering a severe drop in revenue.

But not all busmen are in agreement with the struggle for lower fuel costs.

During an interview Wednesday, Peter ‘Fluffy’ Mc Queen, who declared himself a supporter of the Mitchell-led administration, said the high fuel cost is working in their favour since it has decreased the number of private commuters.

“That is not the right time for that. Right now, they wake up in the morning again, embarrass us, wake up in the morning, and say they are making a protest. The majority of people getting the effect of gas (price),” he said.

“It (has) private cars. Right now, with gas price (high), it is better for Grenville busmen because right in Grenville by Rainbow Inn, on the two sides of the road it(has) vehicles (parked up) – private vehicles,” he added.

Mc Queen went on to say: “They (parking) up to their vehicle there every morning and come down with us. We control five passengers, and if the gas price drop, ten dollars, twelve dollars, you know what will happen, we will lose business. So the busmen have to stop that.”

The busmen attracted solidarity from a group of St George’s University (SGU) employers who have been protesting regularly since June 16 after they were locked out of the campus for refusing to be vaccinated.

They also received support from trade unionists in the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Public Workers Union (PWU), who came in their capacity.

President of PWU, Brian Grimes, whose bargaining body is currently embroiled in its struggle over salary increases and pension rights – also joined the busmen to show solidarity.

Grimes said: “I am here as a citizen who is always in the corner of the working man who is fighting for socio-economic development for himself, his children, and his whole family.

“I am here also to encourage all oppressed groups in this little nation to come together to physically work together as one, cooperatively, to try and see if as individuals you can come together and fight for the collective good of all. I am here in solidarity, lending my voice.”

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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