Bus driver shortages in Latvia

The lack of passenger bus drivers in Latvia is critical. This is particularly true during the winter season when people get ill more often. Despite passengers not feeling the impact, there are issues in the industry, Latvian Television reported on January 6.

The head of the Road Transport Directorate, Kristiāns Godiņšs, said that a total of 99.7% of trips were executed last year, similar to previous years. The reason for the cancellation of trips is often, for example, the condition of the roads.

He acknowledged that drivers' shortages are becoming more palpable: "The availability of drivers and the possibility of drivers replacing one another, the reserves are limited. Consequently, if one gets ill, it is a problem at that point."

Head of the Transport Workers' Union, Juris Kalniņš, was more harsh: “The situation continues to be invariably bad. Even critical!"

The main reason for the lack of drivers is pay. The minimum hourly rate for a bus driver is around €5. 160 working hours a month, respectively, makes around €800. More can be earned at the expense of overtime, so drivers risk health issues or burnout, said the union.

“At the moment and just after procurements, the situation has deteriorated so that many drivers who have worked for long years are leaving the sector,” said Kalniņš.

The trade union has offered carriers several years ago to enter into a general agreement on social guarantees for workers, so that at least workers in the state-sponsored passenger transport sector have adequate and equivalent pay and social guarantees. However, such an agreement has still not been reached.

The trade union has therefore applied for a visit to the new Transport Minister, Jānis Vitenbergs (National Alliance).

Meanwhile, the Road Transport Directorate is looking for other solutions. As one of the options, the possibility of facilitating and subsidizing the acquisition of a category D driver's license is being examined so that people who want to become bus drivers can obtain licenses more easily.

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