Rising gas prices infuriate St. Maarten bus drivers

POSTED: 04/16/12 1:24 PM

Bus Drivers Association President Jose Slac (second from left) joins his fellow bus drivers with the thumbs down sign, signaling their dissatisfaction for the fare structure that is in place during the emergency meeting last Saturday. (Milton Pieters Photo)

St. Maarten – Over the past six weeks, the price for gas has spiraled upwards four times and the pattern that is causing growing concern among the bus drivers who intend to implement a plan of action to get the attention of the authorities. The services provided by these busses almost came to a standstill last Saturday when President of the Bus Drivers Association, Jose Slac called an emergency meeting on the Pond Fill, in the vicinity of the L.B. Scot Sports Auditorium. It was evident from the quick response by the affected drivers that they’d had enough.
“We are not going to wait for 17 years like we did back in 2006 to have the bus fare adjusted. The price for everything goes up, except to the bus fares and we want the government to make that adjustment,” Slac said.
Slac reminisced on the period when he would purchase a quarter of Castrol oil for $2.95 compared to $7.95 now.
“What we need now is a group of determined drivers that will be prepared to tell the passengers the fare and collect that.”

According to Slac, in some countries, like Curacao, the bus fares are adjusted according to the price of gas. He also pointed out that the government tried to solve the problems of the bus drivers by putting more busses on the road.
“We (are) going down. The gypsies have tripled. Many years ago gypsies only use to work in Cole Bay. When they started in town, they would stay on the Pondfill, now they go on Cannegieter Street and Back Street,” Slac stated.

However Slac pointed out to the drivers present that even in his capacity as President of the Bus Drivers Association, the government would not listen to him.
“We have to find a solution and I cannot do it if I don’t have bus drivers backing me. I sent government four letters in one month last year and we have not received a response,” he said.
One bus driver pointed out that bus drivers have been the main targets of the police’s Control Units. He believes this shows a lack of respect from the government for the service they provide because taxis are allowed to pass.
“I think it’s time we put our foot down and stand together, but we have to operate as a team,” the man said.

Another driver added that he does not mind if gypsy drivers work in areas that the buses don’t usually work. He has noticed lately that some gypsy drivers pick up passengers from bus stops and that is a practice he would like to see prevented.

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