The George Integrated Public Transport Network Primary Negotiating Team has met twice recently, on 6 and 11 June 2013.
On the 6th June, the main topics of discussion were a continuation on the key issues; i.e. the eligibility of various members of the industry to participate as shareholders in the new operating company and the matter of the Maintenance of Income (MoI) value. In the case of eligibility, the discussions revolve around trying to identify those who have a legitimate claim to a share in the new operating company and the Maintenance of Income payment.
This eligibility is linked to an extensive registration process that concluded on 31 January 2012 and allowed for operators and non-operators at the time to register their interest in the process. The problem is really with those who did not register at all and have since somehow become part of the current minibus taxi industry.
For Government, the problem is that an increase in the size of the minibus industry does not equate to an increase in the demand for services and thus revenue. In paying out an ever increasing number of operators, government is faced with being asked to pay for something that does not have the value ascribed to it by the current operators.
There were exchanges of views and information in respect of additional operating licence holders, not registered during the formal process. This particular process appears to be coming to something of a conclusion as the parties get closer to each other on who is eligible and who not, keeping in mind that government certainly does not want to treat anyone unfairly.
The matter of Maintenance of Income (MoI) amount is a lot more difficult and, at both meetings, led to a great deal of caucusing of the various parties. Government has tabled an offer that, after some discussions, it believes is a fair final offer.
The meeting of the 11th June was intended as an opportunity for industry to accept the government offer or alternatively to table a firm counter offer. Unfortunately, the industry was not in a position to table what government considered a counter offer, but did present a proposal for the change of some of the precedent conditions on the MoI.
Government took the stance that it’s offer had been rejected and, feeling that there was insufficient progress on the MoI issue, declared a deadlock in the process. This requires that Government put this in writing and that a deadlock meeting is held within two days of that letter. It is anticipated that this will have to take place by Friday 14 June 2013. The Deadlock situation requires that senior representatives of government and industry will have to meet independently of the PNT group to resolve a way forward. In preparation for this, the industry will be holding a mass meeting to ensure that its membership is properly informed of the offer and is able to give the industry negotiators a revised mandate to allow the process to move forward. Government has undertaken to provide industry with assistance in setting a venue for the industry mass meeting.
What is important is that this is a procedural matter, rather than a complete breakdown in talks. This is not to say that the matter is not both serious and important, but that the negotiations, whilst tough, are being held in an environment of respect and constructive engagement.
Progress will be reported as the process unfolds.