Private companies operating most of the bus and minibus routes in Yerevan again demanded on Thursday that municipal authorities allow a sharp increase in their fares, threatening to bring public transport to a standstill.
The Union of Passenger Carriers, which comprises dozens of such firms, claimed that they are no longer able to operate at the existing prices because of mounting financial losses.
“You can’t call it a strike because a strike is when workers walk out of their workplace,” the union’s chairman, Hrant Yeghiazarian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Our drivers would stay at their workplace, namely inside the buses, but they wouldn’t transport people. The consequences would be terrible.”
“People have worked without profits for years in the hope that things will be sorted out, but they are not taken seriously,” Yeghiazarian said.
Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian already raised the transport fees by at least 50 percent in July. But he suspended the highly unpopular measure a week later amid an unprecedented campaign of civil disobedience led by young activists.
In recent weeks the municipal administration has given growing indications that Markarian will again sanction fare hikes. An ad hoc commission on public transport formed by the mayor in September is expected to conclude soon that they are indispensable because of increased costs incurred by the transport fees. Youth activists have warned that the municipality will face fresh street protests if it presses ahead with the measure.
Stepan Safarian, an opposition member of the city council, denounced the transport firms’ threats as blackmail coordinated with the Mayor’s Office. He said that their owners, many of them government officials and their cronies or relatives, are keen to continue making huge profits at the expense of ordinary Yerevan residents.