LAST mid-December Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. endorsed the bill filed by members of the House of Representatives requiring owners of bus companies to pay a fixed monthly salary to their drivers.
They were moved by the at the time recent death of 18 persons when a Don Mariano Transit Corp. bus that appeared to be running faster than the Skyway speed limit hit the guard rail and fell off the Skyway in Parañaque City. Investigation revealed that the bus driver had been driving for 19 hours virtually nonstop and without sleep and rest—because he had to make sure he earned enough money. That tragedy was not the first time a bus fell off the Skyway. On June 26, 2011, a Dimples Star Transport bus fell off the Skyway. Three persons died.
The bill would also require employers to give bus drivers overtime pay.
Therefore, the bill also requires bus company owners to assign fix working hours to drivers.
Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Zarate and Neri Colmenares, together with Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap, are the authors of House Bill 3611. It seeks to regulate the compensation of public utility bus drivers and conductors by requiring bus operators to pay them fixed monthly salaries and working hours. Violators would be fined.
The bill’s authors have been guided by the Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS) which reports that throughout our country from January to December 2011 6,940 bus accidents were recorded. This means a daily average of 19 accidents involving buses. The report finds that bus accidents accounted for 34 fatalities and 6,095 damage to property instances out of the 6, 940 accidents recorded.
The MMARAS report shows that most fatal accidents occur at morning and noontime rush hours.
People who have studied the problem including the three congressmen authors of this commendable bill see that the bus drivers’ poor working conditions, the unjust “boundary” and commission-based systems, are the root causes of these fatal accidents.
Fierce competition for passengers
Drivers and conductors fiercely compete with their counterparts for passengers. Many work for up to or more than 20 hours a day nonstop.
The majority of Metro Manila bus drivers get a commission of 9.0 percent of the gross income of the day. The bus conductors get 7 percent.
But every bus’ driver and conductor must meet the revenue quota set by company or owner/operator. Whenever they don’t meet the quota they would not get the usual 9 percent of gross and would even be made to pay for a part, often half, the cost of the fuel used during the day.
Some bus drivers and conductors work three days a week, others five days a week, for 10 hours or more a day. Some, usually the relievers, work less than three days a week. To make enough money for their needs, they work longer hours without rest during the two days when they are employed.
Actually, in July 2012, the Labor Department (DOLE) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issued Department Order no. 118-12 requiring bus companies to give fixed minimum wages drivers and conductors.
Deciding to favor the bus companies’ appeal against the DOLE and LTFRB order, the Supreme Court issued a Status Quo Ante-Order. The SC ruled the order unconstitutional, therefore null and void.
As a result the same dangerous bus-operation conditions since time immemorial—well, since 1957—have remained unreformed.
For the good of the country and the people the Zarate, Colmenares and Hicap bill must be enacted.