GEORGE TOWN, Nov 10 — Thousands of school bus operators may have to sell off their vehicles and close down their businesses due to the conditional movement control order (CMCO), according to the Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Association.
Its president Mohd Rofik Mohd Yusof said more than 4,000 school bus operators have already ceased operations during the movement control order (MCO) earlier this year.
“Many could not continue to pay for their loans and could not survive with zero income so we have lost about 4,000 members since the MCO and now this CMCO, it will mean another three months of zero income,” he told the Malay Mail.
He said the federation was now down to around 10,000 members, having already lost close a third to the various iterations of the MCO.
Mohd Rofik said that while all economic sectors were supposed to continue during this CMCO, it did not apply to his association as schools were ordered close for the duration, effectively rendering school bus operators jobless.
The Education Ministry has now closed schools for the rest of the year, regardless of when the CMCO is lifted.
“Schools will only reopen on January 20 next year so this means from now till then, we will have zero income.
“How are we to survive?” he asked.
He said some school bus operators were still able to service the loans of their vehicles but many more could begin to fall delinquent on payments.
With no timeline for a Covid-19 vaccine here and no guarantee that schools would not be closed again under another CMCO in the future, he said operators have little motivation to persevere.
“Many of them will give up and let the financial institutions repossess their vehicles and look for other jobs such as food delivery or lorry drivers,” he said.
He said the one-off cash aid of RM600 the government previously gave during the MCO was not enough even for a month’s expenses, much less make up for months of irregular work due to school closures.
The CMCO in the Klang Valley has been going on since October so this meant many of the school bus operators have been jobless since then and will face another three months of zero income.
It has now been extended until December 6 and expanded to cover all states in the peninsula except Perlis, Pahang, and Kelantan.
“We must not forget that they have families to support too and on top of that, loans to repay for their buses,” he said.
Mohd Rofik said that before the Covid-19 pandemic, school bus operators had at least 11 months of regular income each year so the profession was considered a stable job.
He said many school bus operators decided to invest in the business because of this, but the extreme uncertainty meant many did not see compelling reasons to stick with the work.
Those who might want to stay on also might not be able to afford to, he said.
“Many will need between RM4,000 and RM5,000 each month to pay their loans and support their families so during the MCO, many have already dug into their savings, even their extra savings hidden in pillows are gone,” he said.
Mohd Rofik acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic was unforeseen and that measures to contain the disease, such as the CMCO, were unavoidable.
However, he said the government should still find ways to support the sector vital to supporting the country’s education.
“At the very least, there must be a moratorium on vehicle loans for school bus operators especially during the CMCO so that their buses will not be repossessed by the banks and financial institutions when they fail to service their loans,” he said.
He said the government has been giving out aid to affected groups yet school bus operators and drivers continue to be forgotten.
Parents should prepare for the possibility that they may have to send and fetch their children from schools next year as the probability was high that the school bus operator serving them would have gone bust by then, he added.
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