Bay taxi drivers say they fear job losses under the IPTS
In the wake of a midweek public meeting that was addressed by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality MMC for Roads and Transport, Cllr Rano Kayser, at the Bethelsdorp Community Hall, local taxi drivers, marshalls and conductors on the Cleary Park to the CBD route have raised concern that the implementation of the Metro's much-awaited Integrated Public Transport Service (IPTS) might see many in the taxi industry losing their jobs.
The Cleary Park route, one of five in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro that have been identified by the City to be technically ready for the roll-out of a starter service to the IPTS - once all the requirements are met and the taxi associations adhere to all compliance issues.
The four taxi associations affected by the introduction of the IPTS Starter Service, known as Libhongolethu, recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Metro.
Speaking at Tuesday's meeting, Cllr Kayser emphasised on the urgency of rolling out the IPTS service.
He reminded the taxi owners that, “Nelson Mandela Bay was identified along with twelve other municipalities to provide this kind of service to their communities as far back as 2004. The City remains the only municipality not to have rendered this service even though the infrastructure has been constructed and the buses were purchased and have been docked at the depot since 2013.”
The signing of the MOA paves the way for the taxi associations to form a Vehicle Operating Company (VOC) that will render a public transport service, on an agency basis, to the City.
Surveys have been conducted by the City and taxi operators to assist in understanding taxi and bus commuter patterns down to the times of the day, week, month and season.
The survey will assist the Industry Consultative Committee (ICC), a body made up of the City representatives, two representatives from each of the taxi associations that have signed the MOA and a representation from the regional structure of SA National Taxi Council (SANTACO).
The ICC is a structure that exists in accordance with the MOA, which serves as an engagement and negotiations forum. It meets fortnightly and is commencing with the role of going through the modalities and provisions that will form the VOC.
The Committee will play a regulatory role and will be chaired by Independent Facilitators, who will also chair the proceedings of the meetings and mediate in the event of a disagreement between the parties who form the ICC.
Cllr Kayser indicated the commitment of the City and the Libhongolethu Office - which is located under his portfolio, to appoint a contractor, who will rehabilitate the bus holding facilities and the signage that regulates the bus service.
He further informed the meeting that a driving instructor has been availed by the City that will train some of the taxi drivers – to operate the buses that will be rolled out with the Libhongolethu service.
At a follow-up meeting held by officials in Cllr Kayser’s department on Thursday, the officials assured the taxi industry of government’s commitment to job security for the drivers, rank marshalls and conductors through the roll out of a capacity building and skills development plan for those working in the taxi industry.
They also said that the new system will not affect the profits currently being made by local taxi operators.
Issues and concerns raised by the drivers ranged from age, standard of education to employee benefits.
“You will not be employees of the City but that of the VOC – which is the consortium of taxi owners and the City – the taxi owners will continue being your employers and will use the same criteria they used in employing you. What the city will do is to assist in turning you into professionals through capacity building and skills development. You will be trained in customer service, adhering to road regulations, time schedules and will not need to sleep at the rank to be first in line,” explained one of the officials.
Chris King, the Chairperson of the Northern Areas Taxis Association, which co-hosted the meetings, assured those present - to loud applause, that, “no taxi owner will bring their relatives to this service if they are not already participating either as drivers, marshalls or conductors – I will make sure of that!
"As drivers and employees of the taxi owners – you know yourselves and know the Algoa Bus Company bus drivers who will also be part of this scheme. You are more than welcome to raise it with our partners - the City – if such corruption attempts to undermine this public transport service,” he said.
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