Foreign workers could help to ease the pressure on the shortage of bus drivers both in Tallinn and throughout Estonia, head of Tallinn City Transport AS (TLT) Deniss Boroditš said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, ERR wrote that Tallinn would like to launch or extend five bus routes, but is unable to due to a lack of bus drivers. The company would ideally like to hire another 50 drivers as soon as possible.
Boroditš told ETV's Esimene stuudio that one option would be to use foreign labor.
"We have a rapidly aging labor force; a lot of retirees are working. I imagine that if there are no other people in the job market, the quality will start to suffer all over Estonia. It's not just Tallinn's problem," he said.
"If the question is whether or not to launch or open bus routes, I think that since our transport services are used by 400,000 Tallinn residents every day, I would rather have the routes in operation and, if necessary, also involve foreign workers," Boroditš said, adding that some of the company's bus drivers are already from abroad.
Boroditš confirmed that he has not been reproached by politicians on the TLT council for using foreign labor.
"Everyone understands that the bus driver market is not good," he explained. "These drivers physically do not exist. I think it is better to employ a foreigner to work here who is motivated, than to have an overworked person do the job. Because let's not forget the responsibility the bus driver carries when transporting people, whether they are children or ordinary passengers. I prefer it to be done by a rested, motivated foreigner than an overworked, tired local."
Other options for increasing the number of drivers include raising salaries and reducing the minimum age for bus drivers, but these measures would not fully resolve these problems, as there is a lack of labor in Estonia.
Boroditš said one of the causes of the lack of bus drivers' is low salaries, but he said he has been able to make some improvements in his role as CEO of the company.
Boroditš also said the company is undergoing internal changes, such as introducing gas buses instead of more costly diesel buses, which will generate €5-6 million in additional money. He said this can also be used to increase bus drivers' salaries.
Another way to increase the number of bus drivers is to lower the minimum age of bus drivers from 24 to 21, he said.
Editor: Helen Wright