Bus operators ask SC to nullify fixed wages

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2012 05:21 PM | Updated as of Jul 05 2012 04:11 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP) and several other bus operators associations brought to the Supreme Court (SC) their opposition to the order of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) directing fixed wages for public utility bus drivers and conductors.

The 24-page petition assailed the constitutionality of DOLE Department Order (DO) No. 118-12 dated Jan. 13 on the following grounds:

1. The order shall force operators to abandon existing employment arrangements between them and their respective bus drivers and conductors tantamount to breach of valid contracts entered into; and

2. The order violates the operators' right to due process and equal protection of laws for not conducting thorough consultations and for intending to implement the order first in Metro Manila.

Petitioners urged the high court to immediately issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of the assailed order, claiming that unless the DOLE and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) are restrained, petitioners will suffer irreparable damage.

"The full compliance of the new rules is difficult, if not impossible and it is feared [that it] shall result in the cancellation or in the non-renewal of the Certificates of Public Convenience (CPC)... As a matter of fact, it could lead to their actual bankruptcy or ultimate corporate demise, in much the same fate as those suffered by those government-operated bus companies in the past," the petition read.

The petitioners argued that the efficacy of the move is "debatable" and "could very well be one of those 'hit-and-miss' attempts desperately made as another 'band aid' solution" to their sector's problems including the perceived attribution to the present commission basis as the leading cause of traffic and road accidents.

"[T]he ones who stand to lose the most are the helpless petitioners herein, as bus operators who are exposed to losing everything they have worked hard for over the past decades," the petition read.

Petitioners stressed that they depend on their income solely on passenger fares "that are not flexible enough to cope with changes in compensation schemes already in place." They expressed dismay that no "safety net or subsidy" is being offered by government in case the fixed rate policy fails.

"Culture chance and values formation could be more effective, while more effective implementation of traffic rules and more disciplined pedestrians are definitely even more effective solutions to the problems which the system that respondents herein seek to implement could ever achieve," the petition read.

Under the DOLE order, bus drivers and conductors should be paid not lower than the minimum wage and entitled to overtime pay, among others.

Joining the PBOAP in the petition are the Southern Luzon Bus Operators Association, Inc. (SOLUBOA), Inter-city Bus Operators Association (INTERBOA), and City of San Jose Del Monte Bus Operators Association (CSJDMBOA).