Posted: Friday, March 11, 2022. 10:28 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: A simmering issue in the transportation industry could potentially blow up in the coming weeks, as the Belize Bus Association made twin strikes – announcing a potential national strike over bus fares and challenging in court the permits of a fellow competitor, Floralia Transport.
According to the President of the Association, Thomas “Andy” Shaw, speaking to Channel 5 News, “The operators are a bit fatigued and tired of actually living on promises. It is something that we have been clamouring for years and from government to government and to no avail and we are not really getting anywhere.”
Operators are seeking a further increase in bus fares due to the constant increase in fuel and other costs, which have made their needed business unprofitable.
And while Minister of Transport Rodwell Ferguson is very much sympathetic, he told Channel 5 his hands are tied: “But only the Government of Belize can set the rates because it’s regulated, and I explained to them that as the Minister I’m a member of the Cabinet but I’m not the Cabinet. And this issue has to go to Cabinet.” The next Cabinet meeting is not due until Tuesday, March 22, as this Tuesday the House of Representatives meets for the presentation of the Budget.
The operators have been asked and agreed after a meeting with Ferguson to formally submit their demands, but according to Shaw, the strike will be delayed, but not necessarily denied. He also indicated that operators are aware of the continuing issues regarding oil supply in the wake of the Ukraine war.
Meanwhile, the Association and two of its members, James Bus Line and Griga Bus Line, are challenging by judicial review the offer of road service permits to Floralia Bus Line. The application made by Barrow and Williams firm is against Floralia; the Chairman of the Belize Transport Board, the Ministry of Transport, and the Attorney General, seeking judicial review “to declare illegal and quash various Road Service Permits awarded to Floralia Limited by the Transport Board.”
According to Senior Counsel Dean Barrow, Floralia’s runs from Punta Gorda to Belize City conflict with the established James schedule and were awarded, his clients allege, “illegally, without any proper consideration, without the applications for the permits going to a meeting of the Transport Board on which they are represented, and without therefore the requisite steps to gazette the application to give people notice so that any objections might have been entertained.” Further such runs have been permitted from Dangriga to Belize City in similar conditions.
The application seeks a stay on the Board’s decision on the Dangriga runs, which were set to commence on Monday. Senior Counsel Barrow noted that application for judicial review contemplates both receiving permission and halting whatever wrong is being challenged, and so the Board is on notice that their decision is being challenged and that out of the interest of justice, the Board should not allow Floralia to proceed if an interim injunction will stop them anyway.
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