The Southern Taxi Association (STA) has called for the resignation of President of the National Taxi Union Lucien Joseph, claiming that he has turned a blind eye to a situation where tour and outside taxi-service operators are taking away business from STA members.
“Joseph has definitely betrayed us and we have no confidence in his leadership and I think he has to step down,” president of the STA Francisco Jn Pierre told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in an exclusive interview today (July 22).
Jn Pierre accused Joseph of sourcing outside taxi services for tour operators, an issue that led to a standoff between the STA and the St. Lucia Reps and SunLink Tours on Saturday, July 19.
Jn Pierre noted that the STA is the only authorised taxi-service provider at the Hewanorra International Airport and the association currently pays in excess of $100,000 annually to operate out of the airport. However, he claims over the years “it has become a free for all”.
The STA president further explained that St. Lucia Reps sourced seven 30-seater vehicles, two 40-seaters and one luggage bus from the north. And despite the STA’s current fleet of four 30-seater vehicles, two 40-seaters and one luggage bus, only one 30-seater vehicle was hired from the STA.
The association head claims that the St. Lucia Reps has been side-lining their association for some time now. Regardless of discussions with various stakeholders, the issue of stopping unauthorised taxi services from commuting to and from the airport has not been
“We have had many meetings with stakeholders in this regard and to no avail,” he told SNO.
“We have been faced with many challenges of having other hotel-based carriers and tour providers cashing in on our drops, specifically the St. Lucia Reps,” he explained.
Jn Pierre said the STA’s income has diminished from 90 per cent to about 60 per cent.
A meeting between both parties was held recently with the aim of resolving all issues. In spite of this, the STA claims that nothing has changed.
“I hope that the authority do what they have to do because I am trying not to take any action that will affect the tourism industry,” he pointed out.
Jn Pierre said he was reliably informed that the St. Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority (SLASPA) had submitted a proposal to Cabinet last September on a way forward, but that they have failed to act upon it.
“We are saying the time has come for the authority to regulate the industry. I think we need to protect our bread as an association, and with that, send a signal to government that it is serious and we need something to be done.”
Besides this, the STA said since 1998, no movement in taxi prices has been made, particularly charges made to tour operators. The only two increases the STA has obtained were through direct negotiations with Sandals Hotel and the Sugar Beach Resorts.
The STA head also complained that the increase in costs for vehicle spare parts and fuel has been an additional burden to its members over the years and believes that taxis are operating at a lost.
He said if there are no immediate changes made to the situation the next move would be to review its contractual agreement with SLASPA.
Efforts by SNO to contact St. Lucia Reps and the National Taxi Union on Tuesday, July 22 were unsuccessful.