YANGON — Around 400 bus drivers and conductors staged a protest on Thursday in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Township against the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA)’s plan to replace bus conductors with fare boxes on Yangon Bus Service (YBS) vehicles.
The protest followed the YRTA’s statement on Monday about the installation of fare boxes on all YBS bus lines as of Thursday, which would mean that thousands of bus conductors would lose their jobs.
“[We staged the protest] not because we don’t like the fare box system. We welcome this because it is convenient for passengers. But we don’t want conductors to lose their jobs because of it,” one of the protest leaders and bus driver U Kyaw Zin Htun told reporters.
“We want [authorities] to consider their livelihoods and keep a conductor [on each bus],” he said, adding that some buses currently have two conductors on board.
The Irrawaddy was not able to get a comment from YRTA.
Some 70 drivers and 300 bus conductors from nine bus lines joined the protest march in Shwepyithar Township, said driver Ko Aung Ko, one of the protestors.
“Rather than introducing fare boxes immediately, [authorities] could organize training for bus conductors about their manners, and [bus operators] could recruit those who complete the training, and ban them if they are rude to customers. We would accept this. But this sudden firing disrupts the livelihoods of families,” said Ko Aung Ko.
YRTA officials will carry out checks on YBS buses to make sure they are not employing bus conductors. YRTA is also negotiating with bus line operators to move toward a cashless system.
Meanwhile, commuters have differing views about the cash boxes.
“Although the new system seems good, some commuters – like elderly people and pregnant women – need help. I think there is a need to keep qualified conductors on board,” said a commuter.
Some commuters expressed concern that the sudden unemployment would contribute to an increase in crime.
YBS was launched in January, and at present, it operates around 80 bus lines.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.