ST GEORGE’S, GRENADA (CARIBUPDATE/OCT 11, 2016) - The head of a bus drivers association here says that strike action they took on Tuesday will perhaps continue for the rest of the week – and possibly be extended to other routes.
Bus drivers plying the southern route between Grenada’s capital and its tourist belt Grand Anse went on strike Tuesday complaining about extreme punishment by a controversial magistrate for traffic offences.
Not only did the bus men not run their normal schedules, causing havoc with passengers mainly seeking to get to work – but drove their empty buses slowly on some of the narrow roads, forcing traffic between the capital and Grand Anse to go at an unprecedented snail’s pace during rush hour.
There were reports of a number of drivers and conductors being arrested by police for obstruction. One lawyer complained that one of is client was being held overnight and not offered bail.
Two operators may also face a more serious charge of assault on a police officer. Eyewitnesses say a Sargent Smith was attacked by two men identified with the operators, while he was trying to direct traffic.
Other than seeking to have the magistrate removed, some of the protesting owners and drivers also complained of “too many buses on the route.”
At least one bus driver, based on a placard he carried, was also complaining about the price of gas.
While there appeared to be pockets of public support of the protesting bus men, there was widespread condemnation particular on social media by inconvenienced passengers.
“If Jerry Seales is such a 'loose cannon' and the bus drivers still traverse the Grand Anse route in such an unlawful manner, imagine if there was no Jerry Seales to fear. Time for some proper dialogue and re-education for a service so essential to the general public,” Dexter Mitchell, a social and sports commentator wrote on his facebook page.
“The things they are calling for are not easily achieved. No one in the government could recall a magistrate like that since there are separation of powers; and calling for someone to restrict the purchases of buses is not consistent with an open economy,” one caller told a radio station.
But President of the Grand Anse Bus Owners Association Roger Telesford insisted to CARIBUPDATE NEWS that the protest will “definitely continue Tuesday” and “perhaps for the rest of the week.”
Telesford complained that Seales has been sending drivers to jail for minor traffic offences.
The association's president said when drivers appear before Magistrate Seales, he has been imposing fines to be paid at the very moment – or else they have had to face jail time.
“It went from that to sending guys in prison; six months; three months; one month; 14 days and it has not gotten better. Last week he took away five guys’ license,” Telesford complained.
“We do not have numeric points; and I guess the power is in his hands to do as he feels; so he took away five guys’ license. It means that they are out of bread and butter. For us it’s a bread and butter issue. You have your bills to pay at the end, you don’t have a source of income. You are left wanting,” he said.
Telesford said that almost all of the buses were off the southern route Tuesday – and that the action will continue into Wednesday.
“I know for sure its going to go into tomorrow please God. That’s for sure. If by tomorrow we are not satisfied, perhaps the whole week. We have financial institutions to satisfy, but they would have to understand our plight,” he said.
Teleford also said that there is a real possibility that the strike action could be extended to other routes.
“Tomorrow please God we are going to have other guys, other routes joining in. For example Victoria, Gouyave, St Paul’s for now are ready to join in,” Telesford said.
The bus men say their end game is to see Seales removed from the bench.
He declared: “We want to achieve the removal of Jerry Seales because we think that his penalties are very malicious and vindictive. We are all humans. We operate a service. Even though the operators will break the law, it is to assist our fellow men and women. Not strangers. We are all Grenadians. If somebody picking up, It’s an offence, but it’s not a criminal offence. We should not be treated as criminals.”