SC asked: Stop fixed salary scheme for bus drivers

BUS operators petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to stop the government’s plan to implement an order giving bus drivers and conductors fixed salaries beginning this month.
Petitioners are the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines, the Southern Luzon Bus Operators Association Inc., Inter-city Bus Operators Association, and the City of San Jose del Monte Bus Operators Association.
Assailed in the petition are Department of Labor and Employment’s (Dole) Department Order 118-12, and the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) Circular 2012-001, and other related issuances, which petitioners claimed are unconstitutional as they impair existing obligations of contracts under the Bill of Rights, in violation of Article III, Section 10 of the Constitution.
Petitioners also claimed that the assailed government issuances violate the equal protection clause as these orders aimed to cover only Metro Manila buses and not the entire transport sector.
In a 24-page petition, bus operators through their lawyer Leonides Respicio asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the respondents from implementing the assailed orders for being unconstitutional.
Under the LTFRB circular, the franchises of bus operators will be revoked if they fail to comply with the Dole’s directive, which is set to be implemented this month.
Aside from giving bus drivers and conductors fixed salaries not lower than the applicable minimum wage rate, the new Dole regulation also mandates bus operators to provide them with 12 regular holidays with pay, one rest day a week, overtime pay, night shift pay and 13 month pay.
The drivers and conductors are also entitled to the normal eight hours of work a day, right to security of tenure, right to self organization and collective bargaining, and access to all government-mandated benefits.
But according to petitioners, they have existing hiring arrangements with their drivers and conductors under their annual collective bargaining agreements (CBA), such as “payment by results or on commission basis, or by incentives,” which have not been prohibited by law.
They claimed that such arrangements had been in place since time immemorial and had in many instances, proven to be more advantageous to bus drivers and operators. These enactments may further cause, in almost all other instances, the diminution of income of the bus drivers and conductors.
The implementation of said order and issuances is tantamount to undue interference of the government in purely private or business matters involving solely private parties.
“It is crystal-clear that these order and circular amount to impairment of obligation/s between petitioners as bus operators and their respective drivers and conductors, inasmuch as said enactments take away, or at least attempts to take away whatever rights were earlier conferred to them as contracting parties in the respective contracts or arrangements previously and voluntarily entered into between them and their respective bus drivers and conductors,” petitioners say.
The bus operators also claimed that the higher rate of compensation to bus drivers and conductors are too heavy for bus operators to shoulder consider considering the fuel price increases in the country.
“The full compliance of the new rules is difficult, if not impossible and it is feared, shall result in the cancellation or in the non-renewal of the Certificates of Public Convenience (CPC) of herein petitioners, which would ultimately result in substantial, if not irreparable losses, maybe even to outright total bankruptcy,” petitioners said.
The Dole order was also issued arbitrarily as it failed to conduct consultations with bus operators and other stakeholders in the transport industry, they added.

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