Sat, 05 Mar 2005

Public transportation strike leaves thousands stranded

The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Hundreds of public minivan drivers went on strike on Friday, leaving thousands of workers unable to get home at the end of the workday.

The drivers, who began the action after Friday prayers, demanded the city administration increase public transportation fares by an average of 15 percent following the government's decision to increase fuel prices by an average of 29 percent beginning March 1.

"I hope the administration will immediately adjust public transportation fares so our income will not drop," said Parlan, 35, who drives a minivan between Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, and Meruya, West Jakarta.

He said that before the fuel price hike, he could take home at least Rp 50,000 (US$5.56) a day, but his income had dropped by nearly 50 percent since the price increases.

Jermal, 30, a driver on a minivan on the route between Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, and Pondok Gede, Bekasi, also complained about a drop in income since the fuel hike policy.

He said that some days he did not take home any money because the higher fuel prices meant he had to pay as much as Rp 35,000 more for fuel.

Minivan drivers on routes in South Jakarta, West Jakarta, East Jakarta and Bekasi took part in Friday's action.

The drivers are demanding that fares be increase from Rp 1,800 to Rp 2,400.

Some public buses and minivans on different routes in the city unilaterally increased their fares by 10 percent to 15 percent following the fuel price hike.

Commuters trying to get to Meruya, Kebayoran Lama and the surrounding areas were left stranded by the strike.

"I did not know that they would go on strike. I took minivan No. 11 (serving Tanah Abang-Meruya) this morning," said Yani, 23, who works in an office on Jl. Gatot Subroto, South Jakarta. She ended up going home on an ojek motorcycle taxi.

Hundreds of ojek gathered at traffic intersections and other public areas to ferry stranded commuters home.

For a trip from Slipi to Maruya, the average price of an ojek was Rp 20,000, much higher than the Rp 2,000 for a minivan.

City Transportation Agency head Rustam Effendy Sidabutar said earlier this week that his office had made preparations in the event that public transportation drivers went on strike.

He said 111 military trucks and buses and 250 buses owned by the city administration were ready to be deployed in the event of any.

But none of these vehicles were deployed on Friday. Many people ended up walking home from the office, while others were forced to spend more money for an ojek.

The chairman of the Jakarta branch of the Organization of Land Transportation Owners, Herry Rotty, declined to comment on the strike, saying he had no information on the matter.

"I will ask for information about the strike from other Organda members," he told the Post.