Wed, 09 Jul 2003

Parking fee hike a headache for employees

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"You thief," a senior government official yelled at Nita, a parking attendant at a five-star hotel in Central Jakarta, and refused to pay a single rupiah. After a bit more verbal abuse he finally "paid" his bill by throwing the money into her face.

The official apparently felt he was the victim of a corruption scam as he had to pay double the amount of the previous fee Rp 1,000 (approximately 12 U.S. cents), now Rp 2,000 per hour.

Nita -- who has been working for Secure Parking, the biggest private parking operator in the city, for a year -- has found that her job has become more and more stressful since the company raised the parking fee last month.

Secure Parking, a joint venture firm between Australian and local companies, has increased the fee without the legal approval from the City Administration.

However, many seem to forget that the operator's employees are actually the ones who take the harsh criticism from motorists.

"Whatever the result (of the parking rate debate) is, there will be no significant change in my salary," the 24-year-old Nita told The Jakarta Post recently.

At times, motorists often get angry at her, venting their anger as if she was to blame for the rate hike.

"Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just doing my job," she said.

Since the parking rate was increased in early June, motorists often pay only a half of the figure written on the bill, leaving the attendants to make up the balance out of their own pockets.

Another parking attendant at the hotel, Iwan, 25, said that being an employee for Secure Parking was hard. Besides being yelled at by motorists, he could not avoid inhaling exhaust from various vehicles all day long.

A doctor, who once parked in the hotel, pitied Iwan and told him sympathetically that he should find another job for the sake of his health.

"If you work here every day for three years, it could harm your lungs," said the doctor as quoted by Iwan.

Carbon monoxide and other harmful gases from a car's exhaust are not the only inconveniences he has to face.

Every second day, he spends eight hours in a cashier's booth at the exit of the hotel's parking lot. The inside of the booth is like a hot, crumbling shack without an air conditioner, unlike similar booths in shopping malls.

The cashier's booth is next to a large hotel exhaust pipe that in unbearably loud. So loud, that both Nita and Iwan need to shout whenever they speak, not to mention the searing heat they have to deal with from a row of compressor machines behind the booth.

However, they are likely not to leave their jobs in the near future as finding a new job is not easy.

"Finding a job is really hard these days," Iwan grumbled.

The parking company reportedly increased the fee in response to the many building management companies that raised their charges for the company while the city administration also applied a 20 percent tax on off-street parking operators in the city.

However, no official representatives at the parking management could be reached for comment.

Increasing parking fees could encourage people to use public transportation, thereby decreasing traffic jams. But, since the city does not have an adequate public transportation system, people with an option will still use their own vehicles and despite the parking fee hike.