The Corozal United Taxi Operators (CUTO) told Amandala yesterday that they are losing money and customers to a rival taxi group, the Corozal Rural, Town and Village Taxi Union (CRTVTU).

The rival taxi group, they say, is conducting unfair competition practices by undercharging customers and not following the rules and regulations of the taxi trade. The situation is seriously impacting their livelihoods, and a violent confrontation is foreseen, CUTO told the newspaper.

CUTO, led by Victor Arcurio, has been in existence for over 30 years and is the biggest taxi association in Corozal, while the rival CRTVTU, which began operations in January, is led by Luis Alcoser.

Arcurio told Amandala that the taxi fare has been set at $2.50 from Corozal Town to the northern border, a distance of about 9 miles, but the rival union is now only charging $2.00. Arcurio said that his operators cannot afford to undertake the 18-mile journey to and from the northern border for $4 due to the high cost of living, and the high cost of fuel.

Besides losing customers headed to the northern border, CUTO has five other areas in town from which they service the town and rural areas. When a job is offered to the group that runs to the northern border, the customer is taken to the group that runs to the villages, and the price is set at $5, but now the rival union is now also getting into that arrangement and are charging customers $2.50 to go to the villages, some distances of 15 miles, making a 30-mile journey to and from the village for $5 instead of $10.

Arcurio said that operators who do runs to the villages are now losing customers, especially since the laying off of over 135 workers from the Corozal Free Zone. When the few customers who go to them are told that the price is $5 for a ride to the village, passengers protest and express words of anger, claiming that they have only paid $2.50 for a ride to the village by the other union.

Arcurio showed Amandala a log that shows that drivers only make four trips to the northern border, carrying 6 passengers, and $15 is collected on each job for a total of $60 for the day, out of which $30 for gas must be deducted, giving them only $30 to take home to their families.

However, due to the harsh competition, the operators may not have $30 to take home to their family at the end of the day, said Arcurio.

The president said that the two men, brothers, who began the rival union were a part of CUTO, but they began breaking the laws and bylaws of the organization, which led to them being expelled by the executive, after many warning and notices.

The brothers then sued CUTO for $7,000 for dismissing them, and for $3,500 each for lost wages for the money they claimed they would have earned in a month.

The brothers then secured permission to form their taxi union, which began operation in January with about five members, and they began operation from in front of the Asia Restaurant, just across the road from the bus stop, which is their base station.

Arcurio said that Asia Restaurant also has a taxi union, but it operates from 6:00 in the evening to 6:00 in the morning. When the Asia Taxis are also operating, there is a congestion of taxis, because it is a small area. Arcurio said that the Asia Restaurant taxi union is also losing money and business due to the presence of the rival union.

Acurio said that the CRTVTU does not observe the law and carries more than six passengers in their vehicles, which is unsafe, and that they operate out of their designated area and beyond their allotted time, which should be up to 7:00 in the evening. Acurio said they operate all hours in the night, while CUTO abides by policy and carries up to six passengers, and adheres to their close-off time of 7:00 in the evening.

Arcurio said that the CUTO is not stopping anyone from making a living, but fair practices must be observed; the rival operators must stick to the standard price and not pick up or solicit passengers outside of the designated area. He said that CUTO cannot take in anymore operators, because they already have too many members.

He is also calling on the Mayor of Corozal, the police and the Government to address their situation because they are trying to avoid confrontation or retaliation, which he said will be violent.

In reply, Luis Alcoser, of the rival CRTVTU, told Amandala that due to the massive layoffs in Corozal, and because people do not have money, they cut prices to work with the people. He reiterated that they reduced the fare from Corozal to the border by $0.50, and their price is $2, and to the villages is $2.50.

Alcoser said that he also wants to work with CUTO and agrees they should work together, but he understands that the people do not have money, and wants CUTO to understand the same thing. He said that they also are seeking to expel the two brothers from their union, CRTVTU, due to their intolerable behavior, and a meeting will be held to expel them.