On the morning of Monday, January 4, the first working day of 2021, the buses of the metropolitan region of Vitória, Espírito Santo, organized a shutdown of the public transportation service. The main claim is the demand for the immediate return of ticket collectors, who were discharged from their services as part of a measure ‘restricting the spread of COVID-19’ made by transport companies.
The demands made by the workers sought to give visibility to the current situation that they are being forced to go through, particularly that of the workers who were the ticket collectors. Soon after they were dismissed, some of them were offered other duties, in a clear attempt to make precarious an important sector of public transport workers.
With the change that occurred after the dismissal of the collectors, there was also a change in the form of tickets being charged. It is no longer possible to travel by paying the ticket in cash. Currently the ticket at the turnstile is only given with a card provided by GVBUS. This has made it more difficult for people living in the rural areas to travel to the capital, Vitória.
The reduction of buses in circulation was another loss for the workers who had to use transportation in recent months. This action was taken by the ‘public’ transport companies in the region of Vitória even though new buses were purchased in early 2020.
Bus workers, anticipating the defamation campaign and lies made by the union of businessmen, government and press monopolies, organized themselves to broadcast their actions through videos posted on social networks. In one of them one can see a bus driver saying that the buses are ready to go out on the streets, all that is needed is for the ticket collectors to return to their post.
“Without ticket collectors, buses don’t go out!” said a worker among dozens of buses that, even before daybreak, were already gathered at the vehicle garage door.
In another video, also recorded in the early hours of the morning, someone says “The ticket collectors, everyone here, want to work their jobs.”
“When we put the collector back in their place, the own company prevents the bus from leaving,” said a worker during the strike.
Still, the Transport Secretary, Fábio Damasceno, went to the communication monopolies in order to give an interview criminalizing the Workers Union in Road Transport in the State of Espírito Santo (Sindirodoviários):
“They are not complying with the judicial decision (…), not complying with the agreement of the Regional Labor Court – TRT, and once again harming the population. In this moment of pandemic agglomeration leaving the population without public transportation.”
The Union of Metropolitan Transport Companies of Greater Vitória – GVBUS (which gathers the public transport companies of the region) also spoke. In a statement, they said that the collectors have already been transferred to other positions, and also called the fair action of the workers ‘abusive’.
COLLECTORS ARE THE FIRST TO BE FIRED
The transportation service in the country is mostly done on road and mainly by bus. Workers living far from the service have to be prepared to face the precarious conditions of travel, as well as the fact that road transport is increasingly hampered by the ‘double function’ (a condition in which the worker performs both as driver and collector), something that is not restricted to the metropolitan region of Vitória.
The National Association of Urban Transport Companies – NTU – published a study that pointed out that 33 cities had completely eliminated the role of fee collector.
The data is doubly outdated, first because the entity itself states that not all systems responded to the survey; second because the study was made more than a year ago, in 2019.
The survey, even so, shows that in five municipalities payment by cash was also eliminated. In these cases, passengers have to use a card or ticket to pay the fare. In the city of Sorocaba, the collector’s station was eliminated in the 1990s. There, payment is made through card or by paying for the ticket with a QR Code (Quick Response Code) through a smartphone.
The study also shows that the collector’s station was partially eliminated in 32 municipalities. This list includes capitals such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Recife, Porto Alegre and Vitória (a place where today we see an important mobilization of workers for their rights).