Published in The Freeman (Philippine Star), Jan. 19, 2012
Last week, we wrote about “private interest and the common good, the issue of rights,” that sectoral rights often conflict with each other, and that it is always the rights of the general public which are least protected. The latest move of the LTFRB to give drivers (and conductors), basic or “fixed” salaries, is a perfect example. Almost immediately, the “bus operators” protested. And they will even file an injunction in court!
It’s funny but they’re not actually protesting for their rights. They say, “the drivers and conductors are against it.” True or not, its weird that the drivers’ groups, are silent on the issue. They may not have spoken yet, are still evaluating whether it’s good or bad for them, or are just allowing the operators to speak out for them. Knowing the drivers’ associations in this country, I doubt if they will just allow anybody to speak out for them, especially when it is about something which infringes on their rights!
Issues first. The LTFRB directive aims “to ensure road transport safety through linking of labor standards compliance with franchise regulations.” It involves a number of sub-issues, foremost of which, and the subject of the debate is the issue of compensation, presently on commission-basis (percentage of fare collection), which the government proposes to be fixed, in accordance with labor standards. The other components are hours of work, benefits, rights to self organization, etc.
Now, the numbers. Firstly, fare collection basically will not change with the proposal. Travel behavior of passengers won’t change if the drivers’ pay scheme is changed, Passengers won’t care how the drivers are paid – they simply want to be transported, while paying the same fare. On the average, daily farebox collection will remain the same. At present, fuel, maintenance and operational costs are deducted, and the drivers are paid a percentage of the net. The remainder, of course, goes to the operator. If we change to the new “fixed” system, the operators say the drivers’ pay will drastically decrease. If that is true, then the operators profit will then drastically increase! Why complain, then? Is it because they love their drivers so much?
That the drivers’ pay will decrease is without basis. The directive didn’t set their pay at minimum wages – it says, “it shall be part-fixed-part performance-based, to be set and approved by the DOLE, but in no time shall be lower than the applicable minimum wage in the region.” The operators themselves can set it such that their drivers can still receive their pay levels, which is far more than the minimum wage, and I am sure DOLE would only be too happy to approve. The operators should not have any reason to complain. Unless … they don’t like to pay or remit the other benefits required by law – overtime, night shift differentials, rest day, holiday, birthday, and service incentive pays, … SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig coverage, etc. Benefits, that, by the way, not only redound to the well-being of the drivers, but more importantly promotes public safety, and upholds the rights of, … yes! – the general public!
The LTFRB directive elevates the service level of transportation in this country a notch higher. By complying with labor standards, bus (and maybe later, jeepney) drivers in this country will have employment status which are better, with all the benefits rightfully deserved by any worker in this country. The better pay, and the fact that they don’t have a reason anymore to perform totally unsafe daily races to compete in getting passengers, will mean less accidents, and safer road transport for our people. Better working conditions means happier and contented drivers, which undoubtedly, will serve the riding public better. Everybody and all sectors have rights, which must all be considered. But let us not forget that the “riding public” and the general public have rights, too, which, I dare say, must be preeminent. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)