DoLE to enforce SC ruling vs ‘boundary’ pay at bus companies

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THE Department of Labor and Employment will monitor bus companies to enforce its Department Order calling for public utility bus (PUB) drivers and conductors to be salaried workers at least in part.

In an interview, Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) Director IV Ma. Teresita S. Cucueco said that the labor department will continue overseeing the compliance of bus companies especially after the Supreme Court (SC), sitting en banc upheld the DoLE and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) orders for bus drivers and conductors to be partly compensated with salaries, instead of being paid variably depending on ridership.

“The DoLE will continue its monitoring especially after the decision for compliance,” she said.

The SC decision dismissed the petition of Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP), Southern Luzon Bus Operators Association, Inc. (SO-LUBOA), Inter City Bus Operators Association (INTERBOA), and City of San Jose Del Monte Bus Operators Association (CSJDMBOA) who said that DoLE’s Department Order (DO) 118-12 and LTFRB’s Memorandum Circular No. 2012-001 “violate the constitutional rights of public utility bus operators to due process of law, equal protection of the laws, and non-impairment of obligation of contracts.

The decision affirmed the DO 118-12 and Memo Circular 2012-001 because DoLE and LTFRB have quasi-judicial powers that grant them the authority to outline a compensation scheme for drivers and conductors.

DO 118-12, which was issued in 2012, states that PUB drivers and conductors will have a “part-fixed, part performance based” compensation scheme, with the fixed component no less than the required minimum wage and the performance component to be based on safety and business performance.

Ms. Cucueco said that the department issued this order to avoid the “boundary” scheme that is common in public transportation, which is thought to cause drivers to drive aggressively or obstruct traffic while loading passengers. The long hours they had to work to make “boundary” was also found to be a risk to road safety.

“There were so many accidents at that time (so) a survey had to be done, a rapid assessment on the hours of work (done by the drivers and conductors). They saw that drivers could work as many as 16 to 18 hours,” she said.

She added that the boundary system does not allow bus company employees to go on leave.

LTFRB’s Memo Circular 2012-001 is based on the survey and assessment done by DoLE and also orders a part-fixed income, part performance-based scheme.

The en banc decision written by Associate Justice Marvic F. Leonen ruled that the boundary system gives the drivers a “scarcity mindset” because they are “focused on meeting the boundary required and will do so by any means possible and regardless of risks.”

“They stop for passengers even outside of the designated bus stops, impeding traffic flow. They compete with other bus drivers for more income without regard to speed limits and bus lanes. Some drivers even take in performance-enhancing drugs and, reportedly, even illegal drugs… just to do additional trips,” according to the decision.

DO No.118-12 eliminates the “scarcity mindset” by inroducing a fixed income and adding performance-based pay based on safety, thereby reducing the risk of road accidents and poor health.

“The fixed income equalizes the playing field, so to speak, so that competition and racing among bus drivers are prevented. The variable pay provided in Department Order No. 118-12 is based on safety parameters, incentivizing prudent driving,” the court said in the decision.

Ms. Cucueco said DoLE plans to discuss enforcement with the department’s regional directors.

“We plan to meet with the regional directors (and) we will raise the Supreme Court decision implementing the fixed and performance-based pay,” Ms. Cucueco said. — Gillian M. Cortez