For ‘Decent’ Public Transport: NGOs Want Rights Of Bus Drivers, Pass

FOR ‘DECENT’ PUBLIC TRANSPORT: NGOS WANT RIGHTS OF BUS DRIVERS, PASSENGERS RESPECTED
By Gohar Abrahamyan

ArmeniaNow
14.06.12 | 13:11

Problems within Armenia’s public transportation system have once
again become a widely discussed topic after a recent killing of a
bus driver by his colleague in a fight related to their work.

In the deadly dispute in question that happened in Yerevan’s Avan
district last week one of the drivers operating minibus route N5
hit another one in the temple, which caused the death. According to
reports, the two men had an argument over the so-called “stealing
of passengers” and in that particular incident it was about just one
passenger fare of 100 drams (about 25 cents).

A number of non-governmental organizations disseminated a statement
on Wednesday, saying that what happened to the two drivers was “the
consequence of the illegalities that exist in the sphere of public
transportation.”

According to the NGOs (the Consumer Association of Armenia,
the Achilles Center for the Protection of Drivers’ Rights, the
Center of Social Inclusion and Support for Equality, the Ecological
Public Alliance, the Decent Transportation Civil Initiative), bus
drivers in Armenia are excessively exploited by the route owners,
are deprived of elementary human rights, have no labor contracts,
nor any rights related to recreation and health, and are vulnerable
to the arbitrariness of their bosses.

“Drivers do not receive a fixed salary, while paying to the bus route
owner 15,000-25,000 drams (about $36-$60) from their daily proceeds.

This is in the case when, according to our information, bus route
owners pay a monthly fixed payment of 30,000 drams (about $72) to
the budget, which is a ridiculously low rate of payment that ensures
excessive profits for the bus route owners,” the NGOs said. “Besides,
today there are no effective mechanisms of exercising civil control
in this sector and corruption in it has reached the scope that puts
the security of the state at risk.”

According to Consumers Union Chairman Armen Poghosyan, the poor
technical condition of many vehicles serving as means of public
transportation in Yerevan and Armenia today is also the result of
the lack of proper legislation that would regulate it.

“Some $25,000, which are unaccountable and untaxed, circulate in this
sector every day,” Poghosyan said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Poghosyan said that at present 115 minibus routes operate in capital
Yerevan, while under the new concept of the sector their number is
to be reduced to 76 (in recent years the share of minibuses, known
as marshrutkas, in the public transportation of Yerevan has decreased
from 90 to 70 percent).

“Today, there are some positive changes in the sphere of public
transportation. The number of minibuses decreases, while the number
of buses grows, but the schedule of the work of public transportation
still remains a problem,” said Poghosyan.

Decent Transportation Civil Initiative activist Arman Gharibyan says
that their pressure group has a clear strategy of action to be carried
out by a working group that also includes lawyers.

“We demand decent transportation, we demand that corresponding state
bodies punish the owners of bus routes that provide poor services, we
demand that public transportation be available also in late evening
and night hours, that the driver work within the limits of the law,
refraining from smoking and listening to [mostly loud and low-culture]
music and so on,” says the activist.

Most bus drivers do not speak about their problems out loud, but
in private conversations they confess that they are face lots of
difficulties in their stressful work and literally have to fight for
their daily bread.

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