|All buses in the Southern Bus Terminal in Hue City stop running this morning as drivers go on for a strike. — Photos dantri.com.vn
THUA THIEN - HUE (VNS) — Bus commuters in central Thua Thien - Hue Province had to find other means of transport today as bus drivers went on strike, shutting the system down.
Around 44 drivers and ticket sellers working 32 buses on routes from Hue to rural areas in Phong Dien, Quang Dien, Phu Vang and Huong Thuy districts stopped working. They demanded negotiations with their superiors and more labour rights.
Local authorities set up the bus routes in 2006 to facilitate more travel around the area. The authorities subsidised part of the operation costs at first.
Originally the buses, their drivers and the ticket sellers were employed by a State-owned company, the local Roadway and Waterway Stations Control Company. After equitisation, the company no longer ran the buses.
|Bus drivers wait for representative from Hoang Duc Company.
Local Hoang Duc Limited Company won a bid from the Department of Transport to run the buses starting April 1. After that, the new private company started working with the bus employees. They no longer had State subsidies to work with.
Ho Dinh Toan, a driver who took part in the strike, said his monthly wage had dropped. It wasn't enough to live on, so he demanded a raise.
Drivers' monthly pay fell from VND6.2 million ($286) per month to VND4.2 million ($194). Toan said ticket sellers earned half that amount. The drivers got paid bonuses under the State-owned company, but with Hoang Duc they had only their monthly wages to live off of.
Others added that the company didn't give them any contracts to sign, which meant they weren't protected under labour laws. The company managers also refused to give several drivers days off when they were sick.
During a negotiation session chaired by the department later in the aftertoon, Hoang Duc Company's director pledged to create contracts to ensure the rights of the drivers and ticket sellers.
The company said it would pay the employees VND500,000 ($23) more each month. That was the highest rate they could manage, the director said, since authorities no longer offered any subsidies. Half of the drivers agreed to the new wage out of a fear of unemployment. The remainder continued their strike.
Every driver has an E-level driver license, which is the second-best rating in Viet Nam's licensing system. With the E-level license, they could earn VND10 million ($462) a month driving for private transport companies.
Experts said ticket prices should be raised from the current VND7,000 ($3 cent), or local authorities should consider reinstating their subsidies.
Thousands of commuters will be affected if the strike continues.
"My routine would change absolutely if there were more strikes by bus drivers," said Tran Quang Buu, who works at a local power company. He travels from Hue to Phong Dien by bus every day. — VNS