Amid criticism regarding the National Taxi Union’s (NTU) move to get an increase in its fares, President Lucien Joseph said the union remains firm on its position, stating that taxi owners have been living “hand to mouth for too long.”
Joseph told St Lucia News Online (SNO) in an exclusive interview: “I believe the general public is not fair and that they do not know what they are talking about, and I think they know very well that we have had to absorb about 20 increases in regards of fuel and every other thing.”
The NTU president also noted that while taxis have been working with one rate since 1999, hotels have given increases to travel agents, every year all over the world.
“So if now we are saying the time has come for us to look for an increase in income, I don’t understand why the general public is saying what they are saying,” Joseph told SNO.
He explained that the union has not pushed for an increase before because of the concessions taxi operators received from government.
“We believed that it was in our benefit, so that we will hold the rates down, but we were barely breaking even in 2001 and now it is costing 70 percent more to run a taxi. Now we are running the business at a loss,” Joseph added.
Many commuters however have questioned the move, asking why there is a need for increases in fares when the taxi drivers are at liberty to negotiate the prices with tourists.
One concerned citizen said on a local radio programme that he believes that the union is fighting the wrong fight. He believes that the matter should be sorted out between the taxi driver and the resorts that are primarily responsible for the boarding and lodging of the tourists, and not engaging in selling the tourism itself and doing the transfers.
Persons close to the industry said despite the ability to negotiate with tourists, they still believe that the increases should be made official, so that a rate sheet can be issued. This, they said, will ensure that both tourists and taxi owners are satisfied and that no one walks away feeling underpaid or ripped off.
Joseph said the union will be meeting with the government on Friday, August 29 to deal with issues relating to taxes and will also use that forum to discuss the possible increase.