The National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) has taken issue with assertions that bus drivers are greedy in raising the subject of a fare increase which they have not had for some 14 years.
“Everybody is saying we are greedy. How could we be greedy if we have not received an increase for fourteen years? In their current working environment, who has not received an increase in 14 years and is still in the job?” NCOPT President Godfrey Ferdinand told St Lucia Times.
He also disclosed that not all bus operators had received cash disbursements as part of the government’s COVID-19 relief, creating frustration among the non-recipients.
Ferdinand explained that some operators did not provide their correct bank information. At the same time, typographical errors also contributed to the delays and the fact that the council understands that the payments are in ‘batches.’
He said operators had submitted the correct information in cases where the authorities needed it.
But he told St Lucia Times that the frustrating issue for those yet to receive their money is the payments started before Christmas.
“They are used to getting paid through the NCOPT, but this time it is through the treasury, and it is a more tedious process. So the guys are saying, ‘What’s the hold-up? ” The NCOPT president told St Lucia Times.
According to Ferdinand, some $1.1 million in relief assistance covers March 2020 to March 2021 and would amount to $800 for each Route Permit holder.
However, he reiterated that minibus operators had not received a fare hike regardless of the administration in power.
Ferdinand indicated that the public transport sector had received incentives in place of a fare increase, including permit exemptions, rebates and a standard fee for licence stickers.
Nevertheless, he expressed that the incentives do not provide adequate compensation.
In this regard, the NCOPT President pointed out that if a bus operator gets $800 to cover March 2020 to March 2021 as provided in the current COVID-19 relief package, it equates to about two dollars a day when the bus fare on some routes is $8.
“We are taking it because we don’t want to put pressure on the customer. The government is trying to absorb that. However what we are getting is not sufficient and is it seems the public do not understand,” Ferdinand asserted.