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ANALYSIS: TRANSPORT SYSTEM: E-ticketing Opens Up A Pandora’s Box,

ANALYSIS: TRANSPORT SYSTEM: E-ticketing Opens Up A Pandora’s Box,
Sat Dewan (right) uses his e-Transport card to pay for his bus fare on September 28, 2017 as bus driver Rajesh Kumar looks on. Photo: Ronald Kumar
October 11
16:34 2017

A lot of noise had been made about eTransport/eTicketing and its implementation. In the whole debate about it, people overlooked a very important aspect, which was highlighted on Monday by the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum – the welfare of bus drivers.

While everyone focused on how bus drivers will not be able to ‘make’ money when we go cashless in public transport travel, no one focused on how the bus drivers missed out on things people in the private sector take for granted.

Major issues which Mr Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted are worrying. He highlighted the fact that some bus companies got the easy way out and avoided paying the compulsory Fiji National Provident Fund contribution.

This has effectively deprived dozens of bus drivers of their retirement fund. This has saved bus operators from contributing 10 per cent of the drivers’ salaries as their contribution for FNPF. The annual 18 per cent saving of the gross salary amounts to a tidy sum with an attractive interest rate earned over the years and this is what many bus drivers missed out on.

Picture this scenario: From 2015, 18 per cent of the wage was to go towards FNPF contribution.

A driver earning $300 per week should have had at least $2808 in his FNPF fund for 2015, $2808 for 2016 and $2808 for 2017.

This does not include the interest earned on the contribution, which has been five per cent and above given the good returns on investment that the Fund has made on our behalf.

In the last three years, a driver should have accumulated anywhere between $8424 and $8971.56 in his FNPF account. This is only in the last three years. Traditionally in Fiji, bus drivers have been career drivers for about 10 years. So, a driver who drove for seven years on $300 per week, prior to the increase in contribution should have had at least $17,472 in their account. That added to the contribution in the last three years meant at least $26,000 in savings.

This does not include the interest earned on the contribution.

This is what drivers lost out on and bus companies avoided paying up for.

What has been happening in Fiji is that a bailor-bailee arrangement was struck.

This meant a driver was given the bus for the day and specified the routes. They were to give a set sum at the end of the day to the operators and anything earned above it was to be theirs.

So technically, in this arrangement, the bus companies did not have to pay the FNPF contribution. But because it did not matter in the short run, people were not bothered. But in the long run, this amounts to a lot of money lost.

Or, the other manner in which drivers have been short changed is paying them less and letting them ‘make’ money on top of their salaries.

The bus drivers were hired on a much less salary, meaning less money was contributed towards their FNPF. But, they did make more money on a daily basis, but at what cost?

No bank has been able to match the returns or the interest rate we earn from our FNPF contribution. So even the savings in the banks do not match up to the returns we earn from the FNPF contribution.

And, how many of these drivers opted for contributing themselves towards FNPF? Not many.

But, there is more:

In the private sector, most employees are eligible for:

10 days of paid annual leave;

10 days of paid sick leave; and

three days of paid bereavement leave.

The question arises here is how many of the bus operators honoured these?

Would this have come up if the eTransport implementation had not been done? Unlikely.

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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