Taxi drivers belonging to the National Taxi Association (NTA) expressed anger and frustration last Friday as only four of the 86-strong membership were given jobs from two cruise ships that came into Port St George as part of the resumption of cruise passengers business on the island in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
One angry taxi operator described as “ridiculous” the decision taken by the local shipping agent for the cruise liners, Geo. F. Huggins to offer only four jobs for members who have been waiting for nearly one year to earn a dollar from the cruise ship industry which came to a standstill due to the deadly Covid-19 virus.
“This is ridiculous and so we are looking for help wherever we can get it – from the Tourism Authority, from the Prime Minister or whoever is in charge to put something in place for we, the taxi men who were waiting for so long,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
According to the taxi-driver, the members of NTA have complied with the requirements of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) to get vaccinated against the virus and to attend seminars to prepare them for the resumption of business.
He said that the association was also informed that no bus with stickers that ply the regular routes from the bus terminal in the city will be allowed to come into the port to compete with them for cruise ship passengers.
“I observe this morning a lot of buses with stickers go with tourists and drive out the port here and we are the taxi men and cannot get the jobs. What is happening? We are fully vaccinated.
The taxi driver disclosed that NTA will seek a meeting with the Tourism Authority to discuss their concerns in order “to see where we can go forward with this situation.”
“This is not nice for us at all. We’re feeling very hurt that there (are) two cruise ships in the harbor (and little work for our members),” he said.
The owner of a souvenir store at the Cruise Ship Mall also expressed disappointment that the cruise passengers were not allowed to come into their section of the port where duty free shops are located to sell for the visitors.
He felt that the tourists should be allowed to visit the shops as the operators have been waiting for nearly two years to welcome them back and to ply their trade.
Most of the store owners at the Cruise Ship mall told THE NEW TODAY that they do not know how long this will be allowed to continue as they have huge monthly rents to pay and that the cruise passengers should be allowed to buy their items.
The cruise passengers were also not allowed to go to the beach.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Huggins told the union that only 4 of its members could work at a time and will be paid EC$33.00 for every cruise visitor provided with transportation.
Tourism Minister Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen later addressed the taxi-drivers at their union office and assured them that things will be different when the next cruise ship comes to the island and that is not the arrangement worked out with the local agent for the ship.