Issue warrants public consultation – Dr Hinds
While the Ministry of Business and the United Minibus Union (UMU) have agreed to an across-the-board fare increase of $20, there are sections of society that believe the issue warrants public consultation.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Business announced all minibus fares are to be increased by $20 effective from September 1. The announcement was made following consultations with the UMU. However, some operators have already imposed the fare hike on commuters.
The issue has since angered some members of society who expressed dissatisfaction with how the matter was dealt with.
Sharing his views on the fare hike, Executive Member of the Working People‘s Alliance (WPA) Dr. David Hinds noted that while the increase is a fair one – taking into consideration the cost of fuel – it should be rigidly tied to a code of conduct for minibus operators.
For some time now, the Minibus Union and the government have been engaged in discussions over a code of conduct for minibus operators. Commuters have often complained about the manner in which they are treated, and talked to, by minibus operators.
Passengers have complained in many instances of being verbally abused by operators following disagreements over the volume of music being played in the bus or the speed at which the vehicle is travelling.
The code of conduct is expected to bring some structure to the public transportation sector and address issues such as training of minibus operators, particularly as it relates to their daily interactions with commuters.
The introduction of uniforms is being considered as part of the proposed code to improve the service provided by minibus operators.
As such, Dr Hinds noted that the government should seek out the views of commuters and the wider public in formulating the code of conduct.
“Public transportation, whether operated by the government or private individuals, is a very important sector, and we know that the conduct of minibus drivers poses serious safety threats on the roadways. And there are other well known infractions by minibus operators.”
Hinds noted further that the implementation of the fare hike to the acceptance and implementation of the code of conduct should be backed by law.
“The wage hike beginning on September 1 should be temporary, while the government fast tracks legislation regarding the code of conduct,” Hinds added.
Earlier this year, the Consumer Affairs Department met with the United Minibus Union to hear of concerns relating to the fare hike.
Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin told media operatives of a proposal to the Business Ministry for a number of considerations, including a 25 percent fare increase for short drops and a $40 increase for longer routes.
Other requests included the removal of the ban on used tyres, excise tax reductions and proper management of the importation of minibuses.
In the release on Monday, the Business Ministry and the Union said, “both parties also agreed on the need for an established code of conduct for minibus operators, and to continue their engagement on this matter.
The need for proper enforcement was also discussed and there was consensus that this needed to be urgently addressed with the relevant authorities.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry has undertaken to draft the new fare structure for the various zones and routes, and make this available to the UMU for circulation to its members.
Minibus operators are required by law to display the fare structure in all buses.
Both parties, the release said, also agreed on the need for an established code of conduct for minibus operators, and to continue their engagement on this matter. The need for proper enforcement was also discussed and there was consensus that this needed to be speedily addressed with the relevant authorities.
The two parties urged both operators and consumers to adhere to the new fare structure.
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