Tue, 14 May 2002

Drivers go on strike to demand fare hike

Kasparman and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Padang/Medan

Hundreds of public minivan drivers in Padang, West Sumatra went on strike Monday, forcing thousands of students, civil servants and other commuters to find other means of reaching their destinations.

Nanggalo Transportation Cooperatives (Kopan) chairman Herman Zen said the strike was aimed at forcing the city administration to raise public transportation fares after the central government decided to increase the price of fuel.

"We urge the city administration to heed our demands."

Herman said the Padang Transportation Office had promised earlier to raise fares but reneged without giving an explanation.

The central government raised the price of diesel to Rp 1,750 per liter. The increase significantly reduced the drivers' income as public transportation owners usually make the drivers pay for either gasoline or diesel when they operate the vehicles.

"Public transportation owners are still demanding the same daily fee. So, it is better for us to go on strike so that our demands become clearer," said Agus, a driver plying the Padang terminal-Siteba route.

According to Herman, Kopan's 318 members would continue to strike until their demands were met by the city administration.

Public minivan drivers that went on strike on Monday were those plying the routes Padang's city terminal to Siteba, Kampung Kelawi, Simpang Haru, Teluk Bayur, Pengambiran and Nanggalo.

The Padang city administration did nothing to address the transportation problem.

To make things worse, the strike was launched just as senior and junior high school students were starting exams.

"We have to take a taxi otherwise we could not attend the exams," said Yanti, a senior high school student in Padang.

"The mayor should have anticipated this by providing alternative transportation," she added.

Unlike in the previous strikes, the drivers refused to bring their demands to the Padang Legislative Council or Padang Municipality.

"It is useless if we go there since the government will unlikely grant our demand," Agus said.

Meanwhile, in Medan, North Sumatra, the Association of Public Transportation Owners (Organda) demanded on Monday that the government raise public transportation fares by an average of 60 percent.

"We urge the Medan administration to accept the proposed increase because the drivers are already hard up with the fuel increase," Medan Organda chairman O.K. Chaidir said on Monday.

Responding to their demands, Medan Mayor Abdillah told the drivers not to increase fares immediately.

"The public transportation fares will definitely be raised but not too high and should not be unilaterally decided (by the drivers)," Abdillah said.