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Wednesday February 6, 2008
By BERNARD SEE, K. KASTURI DEWI and K. SUTHAKAR
Bus drivers strike leave thousands stranded
PENANG: Thousands of bus commuters rushing for work and last-minute Chinese New Year shopping were left stranded yesterday when striking Rapid Penang drivers brought transport to a standstill.
The commuters were left standing for hours at bus stops and terminals as the 100-odd bus drivers refused to start their engines after reporting for work at 6am yesterday.
Many commuters were late for work when 120 of the 150 Rapid Penang buses did not leave the depot in Sungai Nibong and bus terminals at Komtar, Weld Quay and Balik Pulau. However, Rapid Penang bus service in Seberang Prai was unaffected.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon asked the two parties to solve the matter immediately.
Rapid Penang board member Ong Thean Lye said the drivers were holding the company to ransom.
“We had a table talk with about 100 drivers.
“We agreed to increase their daily allowance from RM25 to RM30 but that was not enough. They wanted a salary increase of RM200 to RM900 a month,” he said.
He said they were all asked to go home and those still interested in keeping their jobs were asked to report to work today.
In a statement, Rapid Penang corporate communications assistant manager Yap Lee Ying said certain drivers were pressuring the company to settle their traffic summonses amounting to RM12,000.
“We refused to do so as the summonses were issued to them when they were not working with us,” she said.
Yap added that the company hoped to resume the bus services by today.
Rapid Penang started plying various routes in the state with 150 buses on Aug 1 last year and carries about 40,000 passengers daily.
Bus driver Idris Noor Mohamad, 37, said they felt short-changed by the company as their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur had better salaries and benefits.
“A RM200 raise is not too much as everything from food to apparel has gone up in price.
“All of us will turn up for work as usual but whether we drive the buses or not will depend on the company’s response to our demands,” he said.
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