Montego Bay taxi operators tired of ‘extortion’

February 06, 2023
Photo by Janet Silvera

Taxi operators who ply the Montego Freeport to Downtown, Montego Bay route in St James, are accusing the government of “extortion,” and using an “unfair system” harass them.

More than 100 members of the St James Taxi Association drivers who ply the route withdrew their services this morning, forcing passengers to walk to work.

They say the government is robbing them of any opportunity to earn a living.

“The problem we have is constantly being abused of operating contrary to our license. If we are seen in an area with one passenger, and that person could be a relative, the fine is $34,000.00,” Ernest Brown, who swears he has never stepped outside his licensed route told STAR Online.

The recent controversy surrounding the enforcing of the car seat rule was at the top of complaint list for the drivers as well, with Brown admitting that he refused a woman and child last week before the Government decided to delay enforcement of the law.

“Our issues are many,” Brown said.

In addition to their complaints about the new fines, taxi operators say they are also expected to pay wrecker fees, and white plate illegal operators are not being subjected to the same rates as those who follow the books and get license to run hackney carriage.

  Brown says he is not blaming the police, because they are doing their work. He is blaming the system.

“They (illegal taxi operators) are paying $3,500 if they breach the law,” Brown argued, with his colleagues supporting everything he said.

Another driver, who goes by the name Miguel, wants the act delayed until the infrastructure is in place to accommodate what he called “Americanised laws.”

“The fines are too high, with all of what we are going through in relation to yearly expenditure. You can’t seize a man’s vehicle saying he is contrary to the terms and condition, you a go write him a ticket fi $30,000, and you still a guh lift up the vehicle pon the wrecker. You have to pay pound fee, wrecker fee and fine,” he argued.

“Based upon how we see it is, it is extortion from the Government. We are going continue to protest until someone comes to speak to us,” Miguel promised.

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