The Rapid Penang bus service on the island has headed for rough times and like an infectious disease, it has spread to the mainland services as well.
What happened is that the bus drivers on the island and mainland went on a wildcat strike this morning, apparently in demand for better wages and benefits.
"Holding the company to ransom" was how a Rapid Penang board member described the drivers' demand for additional wages. "We had a talk with about 100 drivers at our Sungai Nibong depot but could not come to an agreement as their demands were unreasonable. We agreed to increase their daily allowance from RM25 to RM30 but that was not enough as they wanted a salary increase of RM200 to RM900 a month."
In addition, the drivers asked for their probation period to be cut short to two weeks from the usual three months and that they be given transport allowance.
The drivers were all asked to go home and those still interested in keeping their jobs were asked to report for work tomorrow. "We will see how the turnout is before deciding on the next course of action."
The unilateral action by the drivers must be condemned. For a bus service which had started only about six months ago, the drivers clearly understood how much they would be paid right from the onset. Six months down the road, they have no right to demand a revision to their contract. Clearly, this is a case of greediness and I suspect, the unseen instigations by people from other rival bus companies. As usual, the commuters are the ones that will have to suffer for this. I think Penangites deserve better.
UPDATE (6 Feb 2008): As of last evening, I saw the Rapid Penang buses back on the roads, both on the island and the mainland.