Public transport industrial action
- no one will be allowed to break the law Transport
By Kurt Sansone
The authorities are not taking any flack from bus owners and yesterday
warned that if pensioners are made to pay tariffs higher than those
stipulated by law legal action would ensue against the drivers involved.
The warning came ahead of the industrial action declared by the public
transport association for today, which calls on bus drivers not to respect
the reduced tariffs pensioners pay upon presentation of the Kartanzjan.
Kartanzjan holders pay a flat rate of 10 cents on all bus routes.
Government sets public transport tariffs and the association has no
legal right to adjust tariffs. The authorities called on passengers
to report any case of abuse and promised that the police would take
legal action against the drivers. The Transport Authority will also
be conducting a number of spot checks on buses to ensure that the law
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday evening,
Transport Minister Censu Galea reiterated that no one was going to be
allowed to break the law.
He insisted that the crux of the matter are not the issues
being raised but the thorough reform being contemplated for the public
"I appeal to the association to discuss an overall reform with
us. This is an opportunity to come forward instead of resorting to more
industrial actions," Galea said.
Asked about past experience concerning public transport reforms when
tariffs were increased with the promise of change that never materialised,
Galea insisted that nobody can pretend an increase in tariffs unless
the public transport system undergoes radical change.
"The last time tariffs were increased was in 1999 and when I announced
them I did not link them with reforms. I am inviting the association
to discuss a thorough overhaul of the system but nobody can pretend
an increase in tariffs unless the system undergoes radical reform,"
Meanwhile, Transport Authority Chairman Charles Demicoli told The Malta
Financial and Business Times that government has already taken its decisions
on the claims raised by the association and there is no point in discussing
Demicoli said that as regards the ticketing machines government has
commissioned an expert to study the electronic system and if bugs are
identified they will be rectified in due course. "But we are adamant
that the ticketing system should be operational by 14 July," Demicoli
On the issue of the 30 additional buses that the association wants to
be included in the subsidy list for the purchase of new buses, Demicoli
said that government would consider the issue only after the 147 bus
owners that had applied originally would have purchased their new buses.
Demicoli reiterated his invitation to the association to sit down at
the negotiating table and discuss a thorough reform of the system. "I
am not hard-headed and reforming public transport would be a better
task if the association gave its input."
Correspondence published by the ministry for transport yesterday refuted
claims by Transport association President Victor Spiteri on Monday that
the association is not asking for a Lm2.5 million subsidy.
During a press briefing on Monday, Spiteri said that it was not true
that the association was asking for a subsidy of Lm2.5 million, a substantial
increase of almost Lm2 million over the subsidy paid to the association
But correspondence published yesterday by the ministry for transport
showed that association president Victor Spiteri had asked government
for a subsidy of Lm2.51 million. Spiteri had also asked the minister
for the increase to become affective on 1 March 2003. The letter was
dated 6 February 2003.
Furthermore, in a second letter dated 21 February 2003, Spiteri threatened
that the association was going to wait until 1 March for governments
response after which it would give the public a weeks notice before
removing the Kartanzjan arrangement and announcing higher tariffs.
Bus owners are guaranteed a minimum income subsidy for each bus they
own. Government subsidy for 2001 stood at Lm513,580 and that of last
year at Lm779,136