The United Minibus Union (UMU) is set to meet with the Ministry of Business on Wednesday to discuss its proposal for a raise in bus fares as well as issues plaguing the public transportation sector.
UMU President Eon Andrews told Stabroek News yesterday that he received a call on Friday from the Ministry of Business, which invited him to the meeting.
“They have invited us and I think it’s good because most people want to resolve this issue about raising fares and I think we could work together with the ministry and the government to maybe reduce the excise tax and other things,” Andrews explained.
He had earlier noted that the UMU, after discussions with its members, had devised a proposal, which was sent to the ministry.
The proposal, which was submitted almost two weeks ago, is for an increase of $20 for short drop fares and a $40 increase for other operators. It has also requested the consideration of a five-year moratorium on the importation of minibuses, which Andrews and other operators say is stifling the sector, and for there to be a reasonable reduction in the excise tax on fuel.
Andrews reemphasised yesterday that the request for fare increases is timely since their operational costs have increased significantly over the last decade, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to earn wages they can live on.
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 operational costs, which he said is “way more” than the amount of money he earns.
After totalling his costs for insurance, fitness, licences, servicing, tyres, and dues to the Mayor and City Council, Singh said 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 of operators.
“We just want to negate the current situation so that the traveling public will not feel the brunt of things, like increasing fuel and we could only do that if the government works along with us,” Andrews added yesterday.
Three months ago, the price per litre of gas stood around at $200, and today it currently stands at $230 at Guyoil, $239 at Shell and $235 at Rubis.
Andrews also pointed out that because of the high cost of gas and the other factors mentioned, certain drivers and conductors are overloading their buses in a bid to make extra money for every trip. This, he noted, is very dangerous to the traveling public and he called on the police to play their part in enforcing the traffic rules.
Andrews also said that he wanted to use the opportunity to state that the UMU is against all protest actions and all buses should display their fare structure so that passengers can see it clearly.