By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Remuneration should not be blamed for the shortage of drivers in the city but rather the fact that very few wish to join the transport industry, general manager of Reolian, Cedric Rigaud said yesterday.
In the face of ongoing complaints from the public and criticism by several lawmakers, the company again apologised at a press conference for performing “up to standard” during the first week of the new public bus system, adding that it was “difficult to cope with public demand”.
However, Rigaud said the company has introduced a new work schedule for their drivers yesterday which has “significantly improved” the efficiency and flexibility of their services.
More buses for routes 3, 8, 11 and 18 are running in response to requirements, and the company said the route 11 has “reached the goal”.
The general manager added that Reolian’s performance yesterday had improved greatly when compared to last week thanks to the new schedule.
Nevertheless, with the new school year less than a month away and backup services from counterparts Transmac and TCM also ceasing operations in September, Rigaud said he could not guarantee that the company will be operating full services by the end of this month.
The company’s director, Stephen Chok, however vowed that Reolian has the “determination” that the chaos that occurred last week will not happen again in the month to come, stressing that safeguarding the public interest is also one of their priorities despite being a private enterprise.
According to the general manager, the company previously expected to have 320 drivers by August 1, but about 20 percent failed to show at the last minute which consequently led to the unsatisfactory performance last week.
He said Reolian will continue to collaborate with the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) in the hope to recruit all the manpower from within Macau.
He also said up to 40 percent of their current drivers were trainees of the DSAL heavy vehicle drivers training programs.
It is expected that 30 to 40 more drivers will join Reolian in the next three months, taking the total number to 290. Yet, Rigaud admitted that that number is still not enough as the operator is in need of 400 drivers in order to maintain service frequencies of all the routes that have been agreed upon in the service contract.
When asked whether the Transport Bureau has issued any warning or mentioned penalties to Reolian for their inability to operate at full service, Rigaud did not comment directly but stressed that the most important thing for the company at this stage is to continue improving their services.
Several lawmakers including Au Kam San, Lam Heong Sang and José Pereira Coutinho have previously said that Reolian was unable to hire sufficient drivers because their remuneration was not sufficiently competitive.
Rigaud argued yesterday that they have the “best packages” in the market today; pointing out that the labour issue isn’t only a hurdle faced by Reolian but right across the city’s transport industry.
In addition to the MOP 40,000 “cash reward” given to each of the drivers when joining the company, he said their monthly salary can reach MOP 16,000 if they work nine hours a day (one hour overtime) and 28 days a month.
In spite of this, he said very few people went to Reolian’s recruitment fair yesterday, suggesting that the root problem doesn’t lie in wages and to continue to raise salaries won’t solve the issue.
“It’s the people who aren’t willing to enter the [bus driving] industry,” Chok added.
The general manager pointed out that DSAL needs regular driver training in place and a “long-term solution” is required, but did not specify whether they are referring to the import of non-local drivers.