A veteran cab driver says he has lost his livelihood after his taxi license was revoked because of complaints from passengers.
Richard Hydes, 55, who has been driving taxis in Grand Cayman for more than 30 years, said he had little chance of finding another job after the Public Transport Board revoked his license. He previously made headlines when the board threatened to take away his license four years ago because he could not read.
“I’m a grandfather in this business; (they are) taking away my … earnings. I’m hurting, I’m really hurting. This is unfair,” he said.
The Public Transport Board declined to comment on the case, but in a letter from the board to Mr. Hydes dated Feb. 24, which the taxi driver provided to the Caymanian Compass, it stated that it was declining his application to renew his permit for 2014.
“After reviewing the numerous complaints and infractions against you, the board agreed to revoke your taxi permit,” the letter from board chairwoman Rosa Harris states.
It also states that Mr. Hydes failed to respond to a previous letter outlining 29 complaints made against him from 2011 to 2012.
The complaints include: 12 counts of soliciting passengers, six for parking in a restricted area, two for dress code violations and nine others.
The taxi driver says the complaints were false and claims not to remember the precise details.
He believes the board has treated him harshly because he criticized them publicly in 2010 when they turned down his permit application because he was illiterate and unable to complete the written test.
After he appeared on television to complain about that decision, he says the Public Transport Board agreed to reissue the permit for a further two years.
After the two-year permit expired at the end of 2012, Mr. Hydes tried to get a renewal but did not get a definitive response from the board until the Feb. 24, 2014, letter. He continued to provide taxi services in the interim.
“[The Board] couldn’t take the amount of embarrassment after I went to the Premier [McKeeva Bush], and those guys gave me back my license. It’s because I went onto the news. That is what this is all about,” he said.
He added, “I might not have the best education, but all of them taxi drivers out there don’t know the knowledge and history that I know about this island and this business.”
West Bay MLA and Leader of the Opposition Mr. Bush confirms approaching the Public Transport Unit on behalf of Mr. Hydes in 2010.
“I pleaded for him and got him back to work. I spoke to the authority and asked them to review his situation and to give him a chance,” said Mr. Bush, adding that “the man needs to work, Caymanians in need of work today are really suffering … Everybody needs to work, there are people that are struggling in this country now worse than ever.”
Mr. Bush said that unless the board “showed some serious infractions,” he “certainly would not agree that they should take away his permit.”
“He has good background knowledge of Cayman, and he can deliver that to his clientele, which is a great asset as a taxi man, certainly one that gives him the experience to be a good ambassador of the Cayman Islands,” he said.
“I will do what I can again to assist the man, and find out what the situation is,” Mr. Bush added.
Christopher Hadome, president of the Taxi Association, which represents taxi drivers, said complaints about taxi drivers are commonplace and should not necessarily lead to a driver losing his permit.
“It’s a continuous battle with the complaints. The customer does not know why you are charging them the rate you do, so they complain. You charge them the taxi rate, and they say you are ripping them off. Then they complain to the board; they say ‘the taxi driver ripped me off,’ without telling the details of the event,” said Mr. Hadome.
He said he did not know the details of the specific complaints against Mr. Hydes but was sympathetic to his case and believes there needs to be better communication lines between the board and drivers.
“Richard is a hardworking guy, he’s on the road 24/7 and he deals with so many customers every day, so naturally he is going to get complaints,” he said.
He added: “The board and the taxi operators need to sit down and hammer it out, but nobody on the board ever wants to contact us when a complaint is made. They are too big to tell the taxi drivers what the complaints were.”
The Public Transport Board said it could not comment on the specifics of Mr. Hydes’s case in case those comments prejudiced the outcome of a potential appeal. Mr. Hydes has the option to appeal the Board’s decision at the Public Transport Appeals Tribunal.