Union battle revs up
FN News Editor
The race to head the Grand Bahama Taxi Union is growing strong as candidates pick up the campaign trail in the two remaining weeks.
Second generation cab driver David Jones says he knows first-hand of the challenges taxi drivers face on a daily basis and believes he can do the job in taking the organization forward.
He and three others former president James Kemp, Daniel Kemp and Geraldine Dean are in the running for the top chair.
Kenneth Woodside took the reins after Kemp's defeat back in 2002, but is not reoffering himself this time around.
Taxi drivers will turn out on September 13 to vote for the man or woman whom they think is best fitted for the mammoth task ahead.
Jones refuted claims yesterday by Kemp in Thursday's edition that he was returning to front-line politics because it is the request of the drivers and said Kemp had his time to improve the union and blew it.
"He had the opportunity to do them, he never did.
He also said that the people are asking him to come back. If that is the case, we're not hearing it on the taxi line," said Jones.
Kemp was elected for six consecutive terms and served from 1992 to 2002 and told The Freeport News when he constructed the taxi union hall, which is now inclusive of a restaurant and bar, it was for the members, not a chosen few, and the funds that come in from the use of the building is for the members.
Kemp is also advocating for a pension for drivers which, he said, has yet to be established and wants to encourage drivers to form a united force to create a business for themselves as a means of taking the organization to the next level.
Jones is insisting his fight is not against Kemp and he respects that fact that his opponent is the past president whom he has learned some things from, but he is disappointed in the state of the organization when the former president demitted office.
"When he left office, he basically left us in shambles," said Jones who added that the union's debt was astronomical and their credit was nonexistent.
"But now today, we have a building that is completely paid for; we are paying national insurance; we are paying sick benefits; (and) we give our members dividends."
Jones praised Woodside for the work he has done during his tenure and noted that the drivers are better for it.
"The union was sinking deep, but he has brought us to a place now of restoration and the members are feeling good," he said.
"Mr. Woodside's desire is to move on. He believes he has done his best, the members definitely think he has done his best but he has chosen to move on to another area. We wish him all the best."
While he agrees with Kemp on the fact that there could be more of the 600 drivers in the union, Jones said a number of the other issues, including the challenges with tour operators at the Lucayan Habour, which Kemp outlined, have been addressed with the minister.
"He was just waiting on his response. But, after I'm in the chair, if the minister doesn't respond to us in a timely fashion we will definitely go after the issue vigorously," he said.
"There are situations where we feel that the taxi drivers are being unjustly (treated). We have a situation where a boat could come in and one particular tour operation could carry about 80 percent of the (visitors) and we're only carrying about 20 percent, we honestly have a problem with it."
The presidential candidate also believes the issue with the courtesy vans, which is provided by the resorts and motels, is designed to transport the visitors to places like the food stores and restaurants will have to be addressed as it is "killing" the taxi business.
"The main thing is we have to create our own jobs. We're tired of just waiting on someone to bring people in for us; so we're going to be the movers and shakers like we used to be back in the day," the candidate said.
"Our goal is to become the number one transportation providers again. We're gong to treat the people right; we're going to go to classes and we're going to be on the cutting edge."
© 2012 The Freeport News