Killed on the road, journalist-teacher is now drivers’ ‘guardian angel’
17-Nov-11, 3:48 PM | Clara Masinag, Interaksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines – She may have done great things as a journalist and teacher, but in death Lourdes ‘Chit’ Estela-Simbulan has achieved something else without even trying: change the decades-old exploitative means by which public transport workers get paid in this country.
Even as legislation to set fixed compensation schemes for bus drivers is pending in Congress, an inter-agency group has forged an agreement to put in place by next year a system that does away with the “quotas” and “commissions” that in the past were blamed for drivers speeding and violating traffic laws.
Simbulan, a masscom professor at the University of the Philippines who died on the spot when the taxi she rode was rammed by a speeding bus in Quezon City several months ago, was singled out by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority as a key inspiration in the campaign for better economic package for transport workers.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino on
Thursday expressed confidence that the recently forged Joint Statement of MMDA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Land Transportation Office (LTO), and Bus Transport – Industry Tripartite Council (BT-ITC) on a Bus Drivers’ Compensation Scheme will help reduce road accidents involving public utility buses (PUBs).
Under the scheme, Tolentino said bus drivers’ wages shall be based on part-fixed and part-performance based parameters, instead of a purely commission basis.
Many drivers have been found, during investigation, to be speeding and violating traffic rules because their pay was pegged to the number of trips they make in a day.
“The fixed component shall not be lower than the applicable minimum wage, while the performance-based component shall be based on safety parameters such as zero road accidents and traffic violations, company revenues and other parameters of performance or productivity,” Tolentino said.
It is one of the main points of a Joint Statement co-signed by DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Angelo Gamboa and Leonides Rabanes of the BT-ITC, and representatives from the DOTC, LTFRB and LTO, according to the MMDA chief.
Tolentino said they came out with the Joint Statement as a result of a series of studies and surveys conducted by an inter-agency technical working group, in a bid to adopt measures that promote public transport safety and develop a standard compensation scheme for workers in the sector.
The effort was initiated by Tolentino following the tragic death of Professor Simbulan, a multi-awarded and respected journalist who taught at the UP College of Mass Communications.
“This joint statement is a landmark achievement for the entire public transport industry,” Tolentino said. It was signed on November 11.
“After Professor Simbulan’s untimely demise, I pledged to implement profound, institutional and fundamental changes in traffic management and labor laws, to police the operations of the bus transport industry. We must be assured of safe, healthy and optimum working conditions and wage rates for bus drivers and other transport personnel. They should not be exploited by unscrupulous operators whose only aim is to maximize profit at the expense of public welfare, safety and security. In so doing, we would have ensured that Professor Simbulan’s death would not have been in vain,” he added.
The report listed six important areas that need improvement: terms and conditions of work, competency, social protection, franchising, traffic rules and regulations and traffic-related information, and road design.
It also identified factors that affect road transport safety such as driver behavior, road design, drivers’ licensing, public utility vehicle franchising systems, and enforcement of traffic rules and regulations.
“The series of consultations and discussions with the industry players validated our opinion that the risk-taking behavior of drivers has something to do with the lack of income security because of the commission-based compensation scheme employed by bus operators. That is why we really need to professionalize their sector by providing them standard wages and the mandatory benefits such as Social Security, Philhealth, PAG-IBIG, etc.” Tolentino said.
The implementation of a uniform compensation system will commence by early next year, upon the issuance of a DOLE wage order.
The technical working group is composed of DOLE, National Wages and Productivity Commission, Institute for Labor Studies, Occupational Safety and Health Center, Bureau of Working Conditions, and the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics.