Bus drivers belonging to the Transport Union are holding a picket outside the Ministry of Economic Affairs on Tuesday at 1 p.m. demanding a sensible and peaceful solution to the problem of raising of drivers' wages.
Negotiations between the Transport Union (Transpordi Ametiühingu) and the Association of Automobile Companies (Autoettevõtete Liidu) for wage increases for bus drivers through a national conciliator have not found a solution and all parties have acknowledged that a new wage agreement without the assistance of the contracting authority or state is impossible.
Chairman of the board of the Transport Union, Üllar Kallas, said wage increases are needed to attract more bus drivers and reduce the current shortage. "We have appealed to the Minister of Economic Affairs and the Road Administration to request additional funding for wage increases," Kallas said, adding that the parties involved have so far refused.
Coordinator of Transport Unions for Bus Drivers, Aare Kübarsepp, said: "Due to a major shortage of bus drivers, many bus drivers are also overloaded. Public procurement of public transport has led to a situation where the winnings have been achieved at the expense of staff salaries and safety, and news of dangerous buses removed from lines has become commonplace."
If the state does not step in to help solve the problem, bus drivers have said they will take action to stand up for their demands and raise awareness of current problems. They have not ruled out a nationwide public transport strike at the beginning of next year.
Minister for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre), said in a comment to ERR's Estonian portal, that he supported the increase in bus drivers' salaries. "I am in favor of a solution where unions and bus companies agree on a new minimum wage and when the next line purchases come, higher wages have already been taken into account."
Aas added it would also help if bus companies and the trade union would not accept tenders that do not reflect a good salary for bus drivers. "If, in the future, bus companies procure higher minimum wages, the state will also find money for higher wages for bus drivers."
Editor: Helen Wright