Speedboat operators who ply the Georgetown/Vreed en Hoop route on a daily basis have threatened to strike if a $20 increase in fare is not granted. They are hoping that their meeting with Public Works Minister Juan Edghill will sway the authorities to see things from their perspective.
The speedboat operators had proposed to increase the boat fare from $100 to $120, taking effect from August 8. However, MARAD, in a notice last evening, made it clear that this proposed increase in fares was not given the green light. Following this announcement, operators countered the threat of a strike.
According to these small business owners, their demand is not based solely on increased fuel price but also on the increase in maintenance. In the operators’ eyes, not being granted this increase is “unfair” since it has been over 10 years since the last fare was raised.
Tyron, a speedboat captain, and owner, said, “We need a raise of fare, everything going up the gas, the jacket that use to sell for $1800 double to $3500, paint raise. Boat don’t work with gas alone, the paint raise, wood raise, nail raise everything…This is more than unfair because all the transportation raising and all over raising. The bus raise; I live in La Grange when you use to pay $100, now is $140, 160.
His statement was backed by Dhaniram, a boat operator and owner who believes the proposed $20 increase is necessary at this time.
“Well, I think it is time for an increase because the gas price is high, maintenance cost is high. Look, if an owner have a boat here and he make ten trips per day when he done take out gas and pay he workers, he barely left with $7000 a day. They don’t know what we going through here.”
“For over 13 years we have been working for $1300 and the weight of our salary it was a bit heavy now it’s light because when the fuel raise everything raise, economic crisis, maintenance everything we are feeling it because when everything raise how can we maintain our family? Why they denying us this increase? Who does want do business to lose? said Cort, a speedboat captain.
When asked what’s the next move from here, the operators said a meeting is planned with Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, and if the green light is not given for the $20 increase, then there will be a “strike.”
“We plan to strike because it is unfair to we because everybody getting, all we ain’t getting, nobody ain’t even coming and talk to you, and when you go and reach them, they denying you,” Tyron related.
Dhaniram said, “The association looking to meet with the Minister. We looking for negotiation first and after then we go see if to strike.” However, a date has not yet been set for this meeting.
The operators also suggest implementing measures to cut maintenance costs if the government cannot facilitate the increase at this time. MARAD warned operators who increase without authorisation would face the necessary disciplinary actions.
Speedboat operators are not the only transportation facilitators who have called for an increase. Some minibus drivers plying the 32 route have gone ahead and are charging passengers $40 more.