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By Carlena Knight

The Minister of Tourism has sought to instill hope in the hearts of local taxi drivers who are calling on tour operators to pay thousands of dollars owed to them by industry partners.

Last week, United Taxi Association (UTA) president Ian Joseph spoke out on several issues plaguing his members, one of which was the lack of communication from some cruise lines and overseas tour operators over settling past due debts.

Joseph said that they had been getting the run around from the operators, but Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez, who was a guest on Observer AM on Monday, spoke in solidarity with the local ambassadors, and said that talks are already underway to address the matter.

“It has come to my attention and up to Friday, I spoke with one of the companies and said to them, ‘this is what we understand is outstanding to taxi operators and tour companies and we need to get this settled’, and they took the information and said they will get back to us this week.

“I am optimistic that they will have to pay because they are going to want to continue operating here, unless the parent company goes under (which is something we hope won’t happen) but I am confident especially to the operator I spoke to on Friday, they want to come back in in another six weeks or so and before they can come back in they have to settle what is outstanding here.”

Fernandez stipulated that the outstanding amounts would first have to be settled before any business is conducted locally by the various entities.

However, Joseph, despite hearing the minister’s pronouncement, said he will not be happy until his members have been paid.

“We are out of pocket by a huge amount of money – about $80,000 and that’s just our association. As far as I know, the other associations and even some local operators are owed as well. We have been having talks with these airlines and tour operators and I will be happy when we are paid,” he said.

“I don’t know if telling them pay or they can’t do business is the best thing because they might choose not to come back here, but I am happy that they are looking into it because the drivers are suffering and it is well overdue,” the UTA president said.

Keithroy “Caesar” Benjamin, the UTA’s public relations officer, also weighed in on the latest development.

“I would be very happy with what Max is saying relative to getting what is owed to us, because going along now taking a strong position will be crucial to our operations as a taxi company and individuals.

“I believe that for us to effectively carry out our duties as ambassadors we must be given the tools in order to carry out our duties adequately. I am indeed happy for any assistance with these issues,” Benjamin told Observer.

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