EDITORIAL: Dressed for public transportation

Let us be clear. There is much in the private public transportation (PSV) sector for the general public to be distressed about and we hold no brief for it. We, too, are appalled by many credible reports of frequent breaches of the contracts of carriage made with members of the public in order to increase the day’s revenue; of their blatant infringements of the road traffic laws for the same purpose; of their on-the-job consumption of alcoholic substances; of the shockingly scruffy appearance of some of the some of the employees and of their obvious affinity for music with obscene lyrics.

For all these evils, the sector is grudgingly recognized by commuters as a de facto essential service, especially given the current financial, rolling stock and other woes of the national public transportation sector.

Fortunately, the owners of these private vehicles have sought to bring some order to the sector by forming themselves into organizations so as to more effectively conduct discussions with the governing administration and to represent the interests of the sector generally.

Last week, the workers on some of these vehicles, in what would be termed in other contexts a “wildcat” strike, took industrial action against public commuters by parking their vehicles away from their customary termini. Their main grouses were what they termed as “victimization by the authorities”, under representation by the established organizations, and the stipulation that they wear uniforms bearing the logo of the Barbados Transport Authority.

While we are not adequately briefed on the first two of these complaints to offer a helpful opinion, we tend to agree with the employees that the insistence of the Authority that the drivers and conductors wear uniforms with the Authority’s logo is an unwarranted and disproportionate intrusion into the contract of employment between the vehicle owner and the worker.

It seems clear that the objective of this stipulation is to bring a needful degree of regulation to the sector in order to reduce the current level of lawlessness, but we opine that mandating the wearing of a uniform without reference to the concerns of owner of the enterprise is by no means the least intrusive method of interfering with the freedom of the employment relation to determine the form of dress that its employees should wear.

Mind you, we are not against the concept of the wearing of a common uniform per se, nor do we believe, are the owners or employees for that matter. It is just that the style and insignia on that uniform should also be matters for negotiation and not determined simply by diktat from the regulator.

Thus, references to the incidence of the wearing of uniforms by others are, with respect, beside the point. In none of these cases, to our best knowledge, is that uniform or the logo on it determined by the state body with regulatory responsibility for the sector in which the employment is involved.

Of course, the clear compromise here would be for there to be two logos on the shirt; one of the Authority and the other of the employer owner. This is a matter for negotiation. We await with interest the further developments in the matter during this week.

Barbados Advocate

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