Updated with some feedback from drivers!
TRANSIT took note of this interesting story in The Star, referring to a call from bus operators to allow them to deduct the salaries of their errant drivers. Responses from some drivers to the proposal can be seen here.
The irony is that bus operators do not really pay their drivers proper salaries – instead, most bus drivers are paid on a per trip basis (for express buses) or operate the bus using the ‘pajak’ (pawning) system (for stage buses & short-distance express buses) where they are allowed to keep a certain portion of the fare revenue.
Interestingly enough, it was only recently that the Bus Operators’ Association called on the government to buy out private bus operators – another unworkable and strange proposal for a solution to our public transport woes.
Bus operators: Let us deduct salaries of errant drivers (The Star)
10 March 2011
By TEH ENG HOCK and P. ARUNA
KUALA LUMPUR: Reeling from criticisms of “harbouring” reckless drivers, bus companies have proposed that they be allowed to deduct the salaries of errant drivers to pay traffic summonses.
Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali, who sent the proposal to Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam and Labour Department director-general Datuk Yahya Mohamed recently, said this would discipline the drivers and put an end to the rising number of bus accidents.
“Enforcement agencies point the finger at bus operators whenever there is an accident, and want us to discipline our drivers, yet they don’t give us the power to do so,” he told The Star yesterday.
“It is not fair for bus companies to settle the summonses of errant drivers. It is also dangerous for passengers and road users as the drivers will not think twice about breaking the law.
“Until we are allowed to discipline our drivers, there is no way we can help improve road safety,” Ashfar said, adding that drivers currently earned between RM2,000 and RM3,000 a month.
[TRANSIT: RM2,000 – 3,000 per month? So why are ppl working in offices/shops for RM 1,500 or less?]
If the association’s request is to be accepted, Section 24 of the Employment Act, which prohibits such deductions, will have to be amended.
At present, under the Land Public Transport Act, bus companies are responsible for the traffic offences committed by their drivers.
Section 240 of the Land Public Transport Act states that companies that fail to settle the fines will be blacklisted.
The proposal is PMBOA’s first reaction following a spate of bus accidents which have left scores of people dead.
In his proposal, Ashfar pointed out that discplinary action, including sacking of the drivers, had no effect as other companies hired them due to a shortage of bus drivers.
[TRANSIT: Right, the shortage of bus drivers must exist because people do not know about the great salaries that bus drivers can get!]
FOONG PEK YEE and ALLISON LAI report that the proposal has drawn flak from several parties, including Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha and Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Khalid Atan.
Kong said disciplining the bus drivers was only part of a bus operator’s responsibility.
“Ensuring the safety of passengers must be done in a holistic and pro-active approach,” he said. “It includes ensuring that the buses are in good condition, the drivers have a proper attitude and are competent, and working conditions and remunerations are good.”
The minister described the proposal as “passing the buck” of disciplining their drivers to the Government and enforcement agencies.
Khalid, on the other hand, proposed a reward bonus to encourage bus drivers to adhere to traffic regulations.
“Employment is not just about money, but also training and welfare,” he said. “The companies could have a monthly appraisal, and provide bonuses if no summonses are recorded,” he suggested.
“Use the reward system, and not punishment,” he said.
Employment law expert Datuk T. Thavalingam said there was no provision currently in the Employment Act 1955 that allowed employers to deduct employees’ salaries to pay for summonses.
“Any legal implementation of such a provision to deduct the wages lawfully would have to be through an amendment of the law.”
Is it enough for us to say that we do not agree to this proposal?
Is it enough for us to say that we are a little bit concerned about the strange proposals coming out of the Pan-Malaysian Bus Operators’ Association in recent weeks?
Is it enough for us to say that solutions need to be found and need to be found immediately?
Actually it is not enough. But SPAD, the Human Resources Ministry and the Labour Department (and the Ministry of Transport) need to make sure that bus drivers are working under safe, healthy working conditions.
That means that bus drivers deserve reasonable monthly salaries, the opportunity for SOCSO and EPF benefits, allowances for some of their travel costs … and most of all, respect from their employers.
When the PMBOA is ensuring that all of their association members meet those standards, then we have that level playing field that is needed to start talking.