School bus operators hit hard by Covid-19 fallout

Jimmy (fifth right) handing over the names of bus operators from Jalan Dato Mohd Musa/Jalan Muara Tuang whose livelihood are affected due to the economic uncertainties triggered by Covid-19, to George (fourth right).

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KUCHING, Nov 23: Sixteen school bus operators from Jalan Dato Mohd Musa/Jalan Muara Tuang today expressed their concerns over the uncertainties overshadowing their livelihoods as a result of restricted movements due to the Covid-19 pandemic since March this year.

Their spokesman, Jimmy Holiday Ambang highlighted that it would not be feasible for many of them to continue operations as they are burdened with numerous operational expenses with most of them having to fork out an average of RM1,000-RM1,500 per month to maintain their vehicles despite not operating. Since March 2020 when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced, schools were ordered to close, leaving many school bus operators high and dry with no steady income.

Yesterday, they met up with Habitat For Indigenous and Urban Programme (Hidup) president, George Young Si Ricord Jr to highlight their predicament.

According to George, the group lamented that since schools closed in March, and even when they reopened in July, there was a huge drop in students taking school buses.

He hoped that state authorities, especially the Ministry of Transportation, would allocate a one-off RM1,200 payment or other financial aid during the current Enhanced MCO (EMCO) to school bus operators, until the reopening of schools in March next year.

George also hoped that the relevant authorities should accord school bus operators the same treatment that e-hailing and taxi drivers were getting.

“These bus operators seem to have fallen through the cracks within the system as the authorities failed to provide a respite during this uncertain times. Besides, all school buses/vans are required to undergo twice-a-year Puspakom (Puspakom Sdn Bhd) mandatory checks,” he added.

George (left) meeting 16 bus operators whose livelihoods are affected due to the economic uncertainties triggered by Covid-19.

He highlighted most of the operators suggested that perhaps the regulations over vehicle check-ups can be relaxed during the RMCO period as the check-up cost imposed a further financial strain when they are experiencing depressed demand.

Meanwhile, due to the lack of income, Jimmy revealed, most of the school bus operators have switched jobs to make ends meet.

“This is because even though schools were closed, some operators still had to pay salaries to drivers and pay their Employees Provident Fund contributions. We can’t save money let alone find it. The funds we have are depleted,” he added.

He also hoped the wage subsidy programme under Social Security Organisation (Socso) could be extended to bus operators too. — DayakDaily