Transport Minister Guy Joseph has said that the government is seeking to address the concerns of bus drivers some of whom went on strike Monday.
The strikers, facing restrictions on the number of passengers they are allowed to carry due to current COVID-19 protocols, want to be allowed to carry a full load or get a fare increase.
While acknowledging that the bus sector has faced challenges as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Joseph told reporters that the bus sector is not alone in that regard.
He pointed out that some taxi drivers have not done a day’s work since March.
In addition, the Minister told reporters that car rental vehicles are all parked while some of their owners are owing millions to the bank, having recently expanded their fleet.
He also mentioned the difficulties faced by boat operators.
“Every form of transport is affected in one way or another, so I don’t think the minibus sector is an exception,” Joseph asserted.
He described as ‘very unfortunate’ the approach taken by the protesting bus operators.
According to Joseph, while there’s legitimate concern about what is happening with the transport sector and returns on investment, the strike action was not appropriate in terms of communication.
“I believe that when you provide an essential service like public transport, there ought to have been some indication or some notice being given,” he stated.
Joseph made it clear that while drivers have a right to withdraw their services, they should not impede others who want to work.
He disclosed that his ministry and the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) have been in constant dialogue.
Joseph recalled that the government had paid outstanding money owed to bus drivers even under the financial pressure created by the COVID-19 pandemic and waived route permit payments started under the previous labour administration.
“I am in no way saying that is enough or adequate to make up for the losses of the sector but all businesses have suffered some form of loss,” Joseph observed.
Headline photo caption: Transport Minister, Guy Joseph