5 DLTB buses torched in Batangas

Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 30 2016 02:28 PM | Updated as of Dec 30 2016 04:16 PM

One of the buses owned by DLTB Bus Company that was set on fire on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Arnell Ozaeta

BATANGAS (UPDATED) - Five buses of DLTB Bus Company in Lemery town were burned Thursday by unidentified men as its employees were on strike, officials said.

Three of the buses were totally damaged. The blaze cost the company about P30 million, said Lemery fire chief Noel Leyesa. There were no reported injuries.

Authorities said the company’s drivers and conductors were holding a rally in front of their terminal in Barangay Malinis when unidentified men set the buses on fire.

DLTB drivers and conductors denied that they had anything to do with the incident.

The burned buses were inside the DLTB terminal, they said, while the workers were outside the compound.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded in DLTB's terminals in Pasay, Manila and Batangas when their employees launched a labor strike early Thursday.

Employees were demanding a wage increase and distribution of their 13th-month pay.

The bus line's legal department said the striking workers belonged to an illegitimate union, citing a "no lockout, no strike" provision in their collective bargaining agreement. 

RETURN TO WORK ORDER

Striking drivers and conductors, meanwhile, questioned the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) assumption of authority over their dispute with their employers, and said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III made the situation worse by issuing a return to work order.

They demanded that Bello explain the move, saying their dispute should be handled by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, not the DOLE, at this stage in the negotiations.

Bello should not have authorized the Philippine National Police to enforce the order that they go back to work because their case still has to be resolved, workers claimed.

Earlier, the DLTB management and workers’ representatives met to seek a resolution to the impasse but nothing came out of the talks.

According to the Pasay terminal manager, one Leyte-bound bus was able to ply its route this morning, amid protests from the striking workers. They also aim to deploy one more bus on Friday night.