House urged: Investigate abuse, late payment for EDSA carousel drivers

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers have urged the House of Representatives to investigate allegations that bus drivers along the EDSA bus lane carousel were unlawfully fired and delayed wages for years.

In the filing of House Resolution No. 52, representatives of the progressive Makabayan bloc pointed out that affected drivers said they received only 23% of the funding allocated for service contracts from the Department of Transportation behind the Libreng Sakay program. .

Below Memorandum Circular LTFRB 2021-02930% of the 7 billion peso funding for the service contract program is for drivers and conductors, while the remaining 70% is for the day-to-day vehicle operator, fuel and maintenance.

“Transportation workers from the ES Consortium and the Mega Manila Consortium, who operate the buses that use the EDSA bus carousel, have faced abuse from their former employers and a lack of reprieve from the government,” the resolution reads.

“Besides the late payment of salary, the EDSA carousel bus drivers and conductors were also forced to travel from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., a total of almost 6 to 9 p.m. [of] work per day.”

As a reminder, at the end of April this year, former drivers along the carousel spoke of severe restrictions imposed on riders who were increasingly unhappy with what they said was their late payment. Since May 2021, they said, they had not been paid.

A number of busway drivers took to the LTFRB in protest and were immediately fired on the pretext that the company was already bankrupt. Those who remained also had to bear fuel costs amid soaring diesel prices.

Speaking in an interview aired on DZBB Super Radyo earlier on Tuesday, LTFRB Chairman Cheloy Garafil said late payment was one of the issues raised during the LTFRB’s recent meeting with the Transport Secretary, Jaime Bautista.

“Give us until the end of the month to resolve the payment issues,” she said in a mix of Filipino and English.

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“Based on our record, only more than 200 buses are deployed in the bus lane during peak hours out of the 440 buses expected to operate here,” Garafil also said in an earlier statement Monday.

Garafil also told reporters that she and Bautista discovered weeks of arrears and unpaid dues when they walked into the office.

This, despite former LTFRB executive director Tina Cassion claiming in June that the LTFRB “has already paid what we are obligated to pay” of the 7 billion pesos earmarked for service contracts.

Cassion, in an earlier interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, went on to say that no official complaints were filed by the drivers themselves. In the same breath, she characterized the situation as an employer-employee problem which she said would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor and Employment.

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“We also need to restore their old routes so they can keep rolling,” Garafil also said when asked about the well-documented commuter crisis of late. But as of now, she said, there was “still no definite policy” on the former LTFRB’s decision to ban provincial buses along the EDSA.

In a statement sent to later Tuesday, the National Federation of Labor said it welcomed the move by House lawmakers to investigate labor abuses along the EDSA bus route.

“As of now, the case of the EDSA Carousel transport workers is still being heard by the Ministry of Labor and Employment,” the Filipino statement read.

“Since entering the Free Ride program in May 2021, until now, workers have not received their full wages. According to the ES Transport-NFL Workers’ Bond, the combined amount of wages that do not are not paid to drivers and drivers is around P20-million.”

with reports by Xave Gregorio