Athough the Trinidad and Tobago Taxi Driver Network president, Adrian Acosta, wants an increase in occupancy for public transport, he does not want to take the covid19 vaccine.
At a press conference at Library Corner in San Fernando on Tuesday, Acosta said it is his right to refuse any of the vaccines.
"'Vaccinate to operate' is a saying from the Government. My choice is not to take the vaccine," he told reporters.
As far as he was aware, Acosta said, out of the network, which has about 35 associations, each with an estimated 80 members, only 30 have signed up for a covid19 vaccine.
Acosta held the conference to call on the Government to increase the 50 per cent capacity permitted in taxis under the current pandemic rules. He wants "a passenger to a window" (which equals 75 per cent capacity).
He estimated that 70 per cent of his membership supports the call. Speaking on behalf of the network, Acosta said taxi drivers have been complaining about the 50 per cent capacity, though he emphasised that members follow all covid19 protocols.
"The drivers are not making money. We understand the situation concerning the pandemic, but we all have to live at this time. We have high-maintenance vehicles," Acosta said.
"All we are asking is for the Government to allow a passenger to a window, which will help us to sustain our families and vehicles. It is unfair for the Government to say we all are in this together and they are collecting their full salaries. "
He called on government officials to cut their salaries by half, saying that would help to sustain the people who were sent home and have not received a salary for the past few months.
Acosta called on the Government to "lead by example," adding officials are asking citizens to band their bellies, yet receiving full salaries themselves.
A few days ago, via social media, Acosta called on taxi drivers to take the day off on Tuesday to highlight their displeasure over the 50 per cent capacity rule.
He said maxi-taxi drivers are suffering the same pain as taxi drivers and called on them to join in solidarity on Tuesday to stay home, rest, and reflect.
"Take a day of rest. We know it will hamper the public from travelling, but we are under serious pressure at the end of the day. After covid, there is life. We are hardly making money to put food on the table to feed our families," Acosta said.
"The Government gave us two days off, two weekends ago," he said, referring to the Labour Day weekend, when restrictions were extended. "We benefited nothing from that as far as I am concerned."
He is also encouraging drivers to tie a piece of red ribbon to the left-side mirror of their cars to show that they support the protest.
Acosta also complained that there are many private-for-hire (PH) taxis on the road. He accused some of carrying over 50 per cent capacity and called on Government to take action against those illegal drivers.
He vowed that the network would continue to lobby until Government answers its call.
"If we have to come out and make noise, we will do so. It is not because we want to risk getting covid," Acosta said.
Orlando Romilly, president of the Couva/ Point Lisas/ San Fernando Taxi Drivers’ Association, reiterated what Acosta said. He considered the covid19 vaccines "experimental."
Considering the legal capacity is still at 50 per cent, he urged the travelling public not to travel in a car carrying three passengers.