Against the backdrop of a sustained clamour by minibus operators for fare increases and the recent disclosure that the Ministry of Business could be meeting with the United Minibus Union (UMU) to discuss the fares issue, a Ministry official has told this newspaper that any official engagement pertaining to the sector should go beyond the fares issue and extend into the realm of consumer-related concerns.
A report in the Tuesday June 26th issue of the Stabroek News stated that the two sides were set to meet to discuss the UMU’s proposal for a raise in bus fares as well as unspecified “issues plaguing the public transportation sector.” While Stabroek Business was, up to yesterday, unable to confirm that a meeting would take place or to determine when, if at all, such a meeting would happen, the Head of the Ministry‘s Consumer Affairs Division Muriel Tinnis told this newspaper that the Division had already communicated its views to Minister Dominic Gaskin with regard to the issues, outside of the issue of fares, that ought correctly to arise during an engagement between the Ministry and the business community.
“We believe that such an engagement should go beyond the issue of fares and address considerations that have to do with consumer comfort, safety and an environment in which they can feel assured.” Specifically, Tinnis alluded to what, sometimes is the coarse behaviour of drivers of conductors including the manhandling of passengers, vehicles with damaged or dilapidated seats that sometimes result in the soiling of passengers’ clothing, loud music and unbearably coarse conduct on the part of minibus crews.
The past few weeks have seen intermittent work stoppages and demonstrations that have resulted in traffic congestion and transportation challenges for commuters though UMU President Ian Andrews is reported in last Tuesday’s Stabroek News as saying that the union is against protest actions and that it wants all buses to display their fare structure so that passengers can see those clearly. However, the extent to which the UMU’s wishes hold sway with the minibus operators is unclear.
Passengers who congregate at the East Coast bus park on weekdays to secure transportation from work have told this newspaper that it supports the view that the issue of increased fares should not be separated from higher standards of minibus service. “The police have to take some of the blame for the situation. They ignore the disorder and they go easy on those who break the law,” one commuter told this newspaper.