The sale of Pantranco’s franchise could have made it possible for the former workers of Pantranco to receive their claims, but Transportation Sec. Mar Roxas stopped the sale.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – More than two decades after Pantranco, a Philippine government-owned bus company, shut down operations and locked out its employees, the government as their employer still has to pay them their commission, their earned separation pay and other labor benefits. Last week they came close to getting their settlement at last, but the Aquino government, through Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas, reportedly suspended the process that would have made it possible.
By now “the former workers of Pantranco are already senior citizens and many among them have died fighting for justice,” Elmer “Bong” Labog said in a statement yesterday. “After suffering so much injustice at the hands of the government, which happens to be their former employer, they are now being denied justice by the Aquino government,” Labog said.
Former workers of the Pantranco North Express, Inc. (PNEI), which was owned and controlled by the government when it closed down in the late ’80s, said that a National Labor Relations Commission decision had decreed that their labor claims must be paid by the employer. The bus company’s franchise, its only remaining asset after it went under two decades ago, would have constituted the employers’ payment for labor claims, and “fulfill the 20-year old NLRC decision compensating workers for the injustice done to them,” said Labog.
But Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas suspended last week the awarding by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board of Pantranco’s franchises to a private buyer. Roxas has questioned the legality of the move.
Roxas’ actions incensed the unionists. The KMU said “It is the height of insensitivity for Roxas and the Aquino government to just step in and deny the Pantranco workers what they rightfully deserve.” The progressive labor center asked whether the Aquino administration may be trying to favor certain allies in the provincial bus industry, “who badly wants to expand his business at the expense of the Pantranco workers.”