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Workers choke Metro Mass wage bill; company suspends plans to lay off 1,200

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The Metro Mass Transit (MMT) has suspended a planned lay-off of 1,200 workers because of the high cost involved in the retrenchment.

The transport company is reeling under an overload of 3,600 workers who are operating a fleet of 430 buses currently on the road.

The Board Chairman of the MMT, Mr Ahmed Arthur, said in an interview that “it’s a difficult enterprise to keep the huge number of workers to operate only 430 buses”.

“It’s a delicate balance for us to keep that number of workers with few buses and still be able to stay afloat,” he said.

He said the cost of retrenching those workers was much higher than that of maintaining them on the company’s wage bill.

Currently, the MMT makes a daily revenue of GH¢220,000 from the 430 buses in operation and Mr Arthur is hopeful that it can meet the demands of the workers halfway.

“When we worked out the figures for laying off 1,200 workers, we realised that the figures were too huge and so we had to discard the idea of retrenchment,” he said.

“The cost is just too much and maintaining the workers will save us more money than laying them off,” he added.

“With 3,600 workers operating 430 buses, it will mean that, on the average, each bus will be assigned seven workers. We have to live with this number until we are able to acquire more buses so that we can have an optimum workforce,” Mr Arthur, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Okaikoi South, said.

Buses break down

The company operates 750 buses, but all have broken down, leaving 430 on the road to make profit to pay for the salaries of the 3,600 workers.

Last month, the workers staged a demonstration against the management of the company for poor performance.

They complained that most of their buses had been grounded because of what they said was failure on the part of their management to account for money meant to pay their allowances and the maintenance of the buses.

According to them, several efforts to get the management to improve their working conditions and pay their provident fund, which had not been paid in years, had proved futile.

They further claimed that more than 100 MMT buses had broken down and that instead of fixing them, the management had rather spent more than GH¢100,000 to purchase a new 4×4 vehicle for the personal use of the company’s managing director.

But Mr Arthur said the company expected 200 more buses by December this year to beef up its fleet.

That, he said, would absorb some of the redundant workers, rake in more revenue and revamp the operations of the company.

He said the board had put in measures to ensure that revenue leakages, which were the bane of the company, were plugged.

Procurement procedures

Among the measures, he said, was the establishment of a depot desk to monitor the activities of the buses and their operators.

The board, he said, had also streamlined the company’s procurement procedures to track procurement processes.

The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, in his mid-year budget review to Parliament in June this year, had said the government would procure 800 buses, 200 of which would operate on compressed natural gas, while the 600 others would operate on diesel.

“As part of the government’s effort to improve public mass transportation, the ministry initiated processes for the acquisition of buses for the two public bus companies. The objective is to improve the current bus fleet of the MMT and the Inter-City STC.

“In all, 800 buses will be acquired. These include 200 compress natural gas (CNG) and 500 diesel buses for the MMT and the remaining 100 diesel buses for ISTC,” he had added.

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