By Lamin Cham
The president of the Gambia Transport Agriculture Food and Industrial Workers Union, Mustapha Jobe, has said that the recent announcement by the ministry of trade to reduce fares across the country is not welcomed by majority of drivers, transport operators and stakeholders of the sector.
“In fact to be frank, all the drivers and vehicle owners are against the move and for many valid reasons too,” Mr Jobe told The Standard yesterday.
Surrounded and supported by scores of his officials and ordinary drivers, the Transport Union president said his office and telephone lines have been inundated with visits and calls from people across the country, expressing serious concerns about the announced fare reductions, adding that the drivers felt the ministry failed to consider the concern of the transport operators.
“In the first place the consultative talks initiated by the ministry on the matter was not adequately exhausted and therefore the decision was rushed and it should be revisited to consider the concerns of the drivers,” he said.
The Union president argued that fuel prices have been increased many times in the past few years without any corresponding increases in fares and the last time fares were increased the fuel price was D42 per litre.
“It stays at that price up to now, so how do you justify fare reductions?” he asked.
Mr Jobe further explained that fare reductions should not only be linked to fuel prices alone as there are so many other factors that should be considered. “If you reduce fares you have affected the salaries of the drivers because they cannot get a salary increment as they will not bring enough turnover and also the prices of spare parts and vehicles maintenance costs are not reduced either. Can the government assure us that it is going to reduce the charges mechanics and spare parts sellers are asking?” Jobe teased the authorities.
The unionist also challenged the authorities to explain why the reduction in fares was not extended to the GTSC, the bus company or the ferries since they too are buying fuel at the same price.
Asked what will be the position of the Union and transport operators before the fare reduction comes into effect next week, Mr Jobe said the coming days and weeks should be untilised by the Ministry to review the decision and hold further consultations.
“This decision seems to be rushed and it is not at all welcome. We are very open to dialogue with the Ministry to come to terms but it is our duty and right to let them know that the decision to reduce fares will affect a large number of people whose concerns have probably not been factored in the decision making,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Works and Transport announced last week that fares will be reduced with effect from 21 August and the decision was taken after a wide consultation with stakeholders and that it also reflects the current reduction of fuel prices since 2013.