Tue, 11 Apr 2000

Passengers affected by strike despite cancellation

JAKARTA (JP): The Organization of Land Transportation Owners (Organda) took several hours to spread word of its decision to cancel a planned strike, meaning most bus drivers failed to show up for work on Monday morning, stranding thousands of commuters.

However, the strike only affected the morning commute, with most buses resuming operation at about 9 a.m., soon after the drivers learned of Organda's decision.

Katino, a Kopaja minibus driver, said he decided to return to work after seeing his fellow drivers working.

"A Kopaja controller instructed me to return home when I started to drive the bus at 6:00 a.m., but I made up my mind to work when I saw other bus drivers starting to work at about 10:00 a.m.," said the driver, who plies the Kampung Melayu-Ragunan route.

Sunaryaman, a driver's assistant on a Mayasari Bhakti bus plying the Kampung Rambutan-Grogol route, said his colleagues decided to return to work at 9:00 a.m.

"We heard that Organda canceled the planned strike, but our boss did not tell us about it," he said.

The aborted strike left a number of commuters stranded at East Jakarta's Kampung Melayu, Pulogadung and Kampung Rambutan bus terminals, as well as in the Cawang area of East Jakarta.

At the Blok M bus terminal in South Jakarta, duty official Azis Said said there was a slight drop in the number of buses operating out of the terminal. However, he said only the drivers of Kopaja minibuses took part in the strike.

"We were able to settle the problem with the help of 20 buses from the Indonesian Military and the police," he said.

The terminal accommodates 1,000 public transportation vehicles and serves 75,000 passengers daily.

While in West Jakarta, the head of the Grogol bus terminal, Bambang Budiarto, said the area was not affected on Monday.

He said six additional buses had been deployed to transport some 300 passengers to Kalideres, West Jakarta, in the morning, but the buses were told to return home in the afternoon because they were no longer needed.

"The situation returned to normal in the afternoon, after the busy morning hours," Bambang said.

The head of the Kalideres bus terminal, Syafruddin Tasar, said: "The only problem was the late arrival of buses to the terminal."

Because it was difficult to find buses in the morning, a number of commuters took ojek (motorcycle taxis), bajaj (three- wheeled motorized vehicles) and taxis.

Daisy, a telephone operator for a travel agency in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, said she paid double for her commute on Monday.

"Usually I only spend Rp 3,000 a day, but today I spent Rp 6,000 because I had to change buses several times," said the resident of Kebon Nanas, East Jakarta.

Adri said she arrived late to her office in the Pulogadung industrial estate in East Jakarta.

"Office hours start at 8:30 a.m. but I was only able to reach the office at 11:00 a.m.," said the resident of Cileduk, South Jakarta.

Most companies were prepared for the late arrival of their employees, as testified to by Gunawan, an employee at an electronics company in Central Jakarta.

"Some 10 employees came late this morning, but my boss could understand that," he said.

While bus drivers and commuters were put out by Monday's abortive strike, ojek, bajaj and taxi drivers reaped the benefits of extra passengers.

Ojek driver Nurhamid said he earned Rp 25,000 while only working half the day. "Usually, I can only earn Rp 15,000 for the same period."

Similarly, Sujatmin, a bajaj driver, said: "This morning I earned Rp 30,000 for three hours of work, compared to the Rp 15,000 I make on normal days."

In Tangerang, home to hundreds of thousands of people who commute to Jakarta for work, Monday morning was a time for panic.

Crowds of stranded commuters were seen, particularly at unofficial bus stops near the toll gates, such as in Karawaci and Kebon Nanas.

"Gosh, I never saw such a sea of people on any Monday morning like I saw today," said a student of Tarumanagara University, referring to the crowd of people waiting for buses to Jakarta on Jl. Imam Bonjol in Karawaci.

"Those people were panicky, afraid they would be unable to get a ride. At 6 a.m., I saw men and women running here and there every time they spotted a PPD bus or private car from a distance. They forced themselves onto buses that were already packed. They didn't care. Some of them risked their lives as they held on to the bus doors with their feet just inside the door," she said.

As of 7 a.m., buses from the privately owned PT Mayasari Bhakti, a major firm that serves passengers on the Tangerang- Jakarta routes, were still absent from the streets.

Some commuters stopped passing private vehicles and paid Rp 1,000 for a ride to Jakarta.

"We have no other choice," Sujarwo, a resident of Cipondoh Makmur housing complex, said.

Around 8 a.m. several buses from Mayasari Bhakti and Arief Rahman Hakim arrived to serve commuters, and by 10 a.m. the situation in Tangerang had returned to normal.(06/ind/41)