The United Minibus Union (UMU) is proposing an increase of $20 for short drop minibus fares, along with a $40 increase for all other zones, and a five-year moratorium on the importation of minibuses.
The proposal was sent to the Ministry of Business last week, and president of the UMU Eon Andrews says they are hoping that it will result in a meaningful meeting between the two parties, where they will able to come to some middle ground which will be beneficial to all.
The proposal, which was seen by Stabroek News yesterday, said, “In view of the present imbroglio orchestrated by some misguided minibus operators through the machination of invisible authors, the United Minibus Union would like to state that we feel an increase in bus fares is justified in the present situation of increases in operational cost, but not specifically a rise in the cost of fuel, over which the government has no control.”
It went on to state that they are proposing that there be a “reasonable reduction” in the excise tax on fuel, all short drop minibus fares to be increased by $20, taking it from $80 to $100, and an increase of $40 in all other zones.
Additionally, the Union is also suggesting a moratorium on the importation of minibuses for the next five years.
Andrews argued that a fare increase in the sector is timely since the last increase of $20 was negotiated and agreed on four years ago, between the Ministry of Commerce and the Union.
He emphasised that within the last decade, spare parts, the cost of living and other costs have increased astronomically, which makes it increasingly difficult for bus drivers and conductors to earn liveable wages.
Sookdeo Singh, a bus driver and representative of the East Coast of Demerara route, at an earlier press conference, had given a breakdown of the yearly and daily operational costs of his bus, which he said is “way more” than the amount of money he earns.
Totalling his costs for insurance, fitness, licences, servicing and other monthly repairs, tyres, and dues to the Mayor & City Council, Singh explained that he spends a minimum of $745,000 a year, which translates to approximately $2,100 per day, which excludes the cost of gasoline.
Andrews also stressed that while the request for a fare increase comes at a time when fuel prices are at an all-time high, it is not solely responsible for the current plight that the sector is experiencing.
Andrews noted that the Union still stands resolutely against all protest actions being taken by “rogue” bus drivers.
He also pointed out that they have engaged the Guyana Police Force, the United States Department of Labour, Guyana Road Safety Council and other agencies “that have assisted our members in areas such as hospitality, decorum, department and road safety, among others.”
The next step is for the Ministry of Business to give a feedback on their proposals and for a meeting to discuss the pending issues to be scheduled. Andrews said he is unsure of how long it will take for a feedback, but he is sure it will be timely.
In addition to bus drivers, other citizens have also complained about the increasing gas prices.
Three months ago, the price per litre of gas stood around at $200, give or take $5, and today, it currently stands at $230 at Guyoil, $239 at Shell and $235 at Rubis.