Sophia buses strike for higher fares
Working drivers attacked
Stabroek News
April 1, 2003

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Some minibus drivers and conductors plying the Sophia route were attacked yesterday for working when others were staging a strike for higher fares.

The protesting operators forced many commuters to seek alternative transportation, while others attacked those operators who turned out to work, forcing them off the road by the afternoon.

By evening only a handful of operators, charging the regular $40, continued to work as residents lined the streets awaiting transportation.

Demanding an additional $20, some of the protestors told Stabroek News that while the recent jump in gasoline prices had prompted their industrial action, they were also seeking to have the route between Stabroek Market and Sophia designated a separate zone from that of Kitty/ Campbellville.

The protesting operators, like many others who have in recent weeks staged strikes in the wake of high gasoline prices, claimed they needed to institute the increases in order to make reasonable returns. They said with the fuel prices they needed to work extra hours to make a profit. The operators also claimed that they exclusively plied the route to Sophia and were facing competition from Kitty/ Campbellville operators who also ply the route. But they said they were not being unreasonable with regard to the fare hike and would be willing to lower the fares, once gasoline prices drop significantly.

Stabroek News understands that this may occur as early as today, with gasoline prices expected to drop to $427 per gallon at Guyoil and $435 per gallon at competing dealers.

While those participating in yesterday’s strike claimed to have conducted a peaceful protest, some drivers and conductors who continued to work were subjected to several attacks, which included having their tyres punctured.

Driver Carlton Bernard was the victim of one such attack, during which one of the demonstrators punctured two of his tyres.

According to Bernard, the attacks left many operators who were not part of the strike intimidated and unwilling to return to the road.

This was evident by the scores of persons who were observed walking into the area yesterday, some of whom complained of not being able to access any transportation.

Bernard explained that attacks occurred on the Dennis Street Bridge, where minibuses enter Sophia. As the buses slowed down at the entrance, he said, the protesting operators swarmed the bus.

And while some occupied the driver’s attention in front, others at the back punctured the tyres.

Bernard, who said he understood the plight of the protesting operators, lamented the situation which he described as unfair. Like some of the other operators, he said he did not bother to return to work and estimated his losses for the day at between $4,000 - $5,000.

Meanwhile, other operators advertised new fares yesterday, including those operating along the Kitty\ Campbellville and Main Street\Lamaha, who in-creased their fares by $10 for adults and children, bringing the fares to $40 and $30, respectively; and those operating between Georgetown\ Plaisance and Georgetown\ University of Guyana routes who continue to ask commuters for $60.

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