This week over 250 transportation workers took the to streets in San Salvador to call for the cancellation of over $2 million dollars in fines and interest they owe to the Ministry of Transportation.
The majority of the protesters were bus drivers that work in transportation collectives. Bus drivers are receiving high fines for a variety of causes; some are for offenses committed by the driver, such as violating traffic laws, but others are for a lack of regulation on the part of the transportation company, ranging from under-inflated tires to improper documentation of the vehicle.
Regardless of the type of infraction, the fines are assessed to the individual drivers, and accrue interest over time while they remain unpaid. If a driver has too many fines, his license is revoked and he is effectively unable to work.
This system has forced many workers into unemployment, which of course has created substantial problems for their families. Despite this situation, the ministry of transportation has so far refused to negotiate the fines on a collective basis, and instead offers individual payment plans for drivers to pay off their fines over time.
The transportation workers believe the system is unfair, and argue that they are unable to pay their fines without being able to return to work. They propose that the Ministry of Transportation cancel all or much of the outstanding debt, and discontinues the issuance of new commercial drivers licenses, so that already licensed drivers that have been forced into unemployment can rejoin the workforce.
In exchange, the drivers have offered to work on community development projects with the Road Conservation Fund (Fovial) and the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) one day per week without compensation. Given that the ministry of transportation has previously rejected the driver’s pleas for cancellation based on a lack of funds, the workers see this as an even exchange of resources. Currently, no solution to the problem has been reached, and some bus drivers have chosen not to go to work today as a way to express their discontent.