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Monday, March 4, 2024

PISTON blasts LTFRB hint of sanctions on striking drivers

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Jeepney drivers have the right to strike and hold similar industrial actions, transport group PISTON said Saturday, after the government regulator hinted at sanctions for those who joined the transport strike last Monday.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has played down the protest against what drivers and operators fear would lead to a phaseout of traditional jeepneys.

It also said it would check those who participated for potential franchise violations.

“ Instead of listening and addressing the calls of the drivers and operators on why our complaints lead to a strike, it seems that the government is really intent on attacking the livelihood and rights of the workers,” PISTON said in a statement in Filipino.

PISTON, or the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide, said the Philippines is a signatory to International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87, which holds that the right to strike can only be restricted in extremely limited circumstances.

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Citing the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, PISTON said that although public transport workers have an obligation to serve the riding public, “the imposition of minimum services must not result in strikes becoming ineffective in practice because of its limited impact.”

The transport group also said that “no government should have such broad powers to restrict a worker’s right to strike beyond ensuring the life, health, and safety of the whole or part of the population.”

LTFRB acting chief Joel Bolano last Tuesday said that the strike led by transport group Manibela did not paralyze transport routes and had little effect on commuters.

He stressed, though, that those who joined the strike may have violated the terms of their franchises.

“What is really prohibited is if these actions affect commuters on their routes,” Bolano said.

He said that jeepney drivers and operators can hold protests “as long as they don’t take their vehicles out of their routes” so transport services will not be affected.

He said the LTFRB would review strikers’ actions and discuss potential next steps

The Transportation Department has been pushing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program to phase out the decades-old jeepney design since the Duterte administration.

Jeepney drivers and operators oppose the program, saying the new “modern jeepneys” are too expensive and will deprive single-unit operators of route franchises that will then go to big corporations and to transport cooperatives.

Some drivers and operators have argued that upgrading existing jeepneys will be a less expensive way to make them more fuel efficient and environment friendly.

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