Appointment letters for the road transport workers, especially drivers of public transports, still remain elusive while the transport sector is operating on a contractual basis defying the existing laws and recommendations of different committees.
The workers of the sector currently get paid based on the trips they make, which is mostly responsible for the fierce competition among buses, experts and academicians observed.
This system is a major reason behind the chaos and deaths on roads, they said.
While the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority officials said that even after sending repeated reminders, the transport owners did not pay the workers on a monthly basis.
The leaders of transport operators and workers blamed each other for the stagnant situation.
Road transport experts said that without ensuring monthly salaries and company-based transport networks, the unhealthy competition on roads would continue as nowadays workers are also involved in the transport business.
The BRTA should act as a regulatory body instead of bypassing its prime responsibilities, they added.
According to the statistics provided by the authority, 36,07,705 people have driving licences in the country.
Out of them, around 1.87 lakh professional drivers have licence to drive heavy vehicles, including buses and trucks, 1.04 lakh have license to drive medium vehicles like minibuses, trucks and covered vans and 78,300 have license to drive three-wheeler vehicles.
Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation leaders said that most of the professional drivers, especially those who drive buses and trucks, do not have appointment letters from their owners.
Section 13 of the Road Transport Act, 2018 says that a person, or any organisation, cannot appoint anyone as public transport driver without a written agreement and an appointment letter following the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006.
According to one of the 111 recommendations prepared by a committee led by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan and executive president of the BRTWF, drivers would have to be provided with appointment letters and paid according to a salary structure.
Drivers cannot be paid based on trips and the committee suggested legal action against owners following any violation.
In many occasions the transport workers called strikes to realise their demand for the issuance of appointment letters.
Lastly in September 2020, Chattogram prime mover-trailer workers went on a strike with demands including job appointment letters.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association secretary general Khandakar Enayet Ullah claimed that they wanted to issue appointment letters to workers but workers do not want these.
‘They usually quit jobs within a few months to join another company,’ he added.
Osman Ali, general secretary of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, told New Age that such a claim was absurd and added, ‘Tell me who does want to have a monthly salary with bonuses and other facilities as per the labour law.’
He alleged that owners did not want to give monthly salary to drivers for securing more profits.
Former director of the Accident Research Institute of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor Shamsul Haque observed that at present the workers became engaged with transport business as a result of fragmented ownership of the buses.
‘When two or three people buy a bus to run on city roads then they rely on a driver to get as much money as possible,’ he said, adding, ‘As a result the driver competes with everyone on roads to take as many trips as possible.’
If drivers were asked to come under a fixed salary system, they would not prefer that as they would want to earn more by taking maximum trips, Shamsul explained.
‘We immediately need a company-based system,’ he said and cited Hatirjheel service as an example.
As a regulatory body, the BRTA could not bypass its responsibility anymore while it has to create the climate of investment for businesspeople to come forward, he said.
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