Acting on information that some operators who were adamantly opposed to Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) acting as dispatchers would be disrupting proceedings on the pier, police from St. Ann, St. Mary and Mobile Reserve in Kingston came out in their numbers to ensure compliance with the rules.
JUTA operators, one of the two companies designated to provide transportation for cruise passengers, were generally pleased with procedure. Several days ago they, along with Maxi drivers, had walked out of a meeting with Government officials regarding the new rules. However, drivers with Maxi, the other designated company, were still upset by the new rules.
“JUTA drivers control all of the pre-booked tours, so they can afford to be happy with what is presently taking place,” said Trevor Edwards, a Maxi executive.
“What the authorities are doing is playing with the livelihood of the common man to the detriment of the country. We are calling on the authorities to quickly get back to the negotiating table so we can find an amicable solution to this mess.” Added Linton Shirley, Maxi president: “What the Government has implemented here is not equitable and will undoubtedly lead to problems. We are not happy and will continue to voice our opposition to the rules.”
Mr. Shirley said that the new regulations have created a first-come-first–serve scenario that has left many operators feeling disenfranchised.
“What they have done is create a situation where if a driver works today and makes $5,000 then tomorrow, as long as he is again at the head of the line, he will benefit over the guy that made only $50 yesterday. What is so wrong with giving the executives of both companies’ tickets to distribute?”
Mary Helen-Reece, TDPCo’s chief executive officer in charge of operations at the pier, said that giving the tour executives dispatching power would only lead to further corrupt practices on the piers.
“We have been down that road before and all it led to was a basic free-for-all,” said Miss Reece. “What we are doing now is very fair to all concerned and will enable the piers to be run in an orderly manner.” She said the onus was on the tour executive to get their houses in order and to ensure equity among their drivers. “It is not our job to see who gets what. Our Job is to dispatch passengers to the vehicles that authorized to be on the pier.”
JUTA president, George Witter, said he was pleased with the new regulations and that his Maxi counterparts were unhappy because of their days of manipulation and corrupt practices were over. “They are mostly an indisciplined group, with hardly if any respect for law and order,” Mr. Witter said. “We believe these rules are fair and they apply to all of us.”
St. Ann Chamber president Joe Issa, said he was hoping that the new regulations would result in a higher percentage of people coming off the cruise ships and also a fair and equitable distribution of the tourism pie for all drivers.
Meanwhile, the changes seemed to make little difference to visitor. “I was surprised to see so many police officers, but I guess we can live with that,” said Charles Naughton, a visitor from New York. “We were told on board the ship to expect these changes and were also warned about where we go while in Ocho Rios.”
Source: The Gleaner