Fast & Furious Bus Line 8: An investigation into poor service
Submitted on Tue, 4 Aug 2015 - 02:10 PM
Editor’s note: While expatriates regularly complain about Bangkok's tricky taxi drivers, Bangkokian Thais are facing much worse -- the poor bus services, offered by both the Thai government and private companies. Most of the complaints from passengers direct to the private-run bus lines. The common problems are that buses do not stop at the appointed stops and buses are driven in a frightening manner. From 2011 to 2013 there were 29 road accidents in Bangkok involving buses, with 30 deaths and 100 injuries
The most notorious bus line is the No. 8 Bus which drives through Bangkok’s worst traffic from Bang Kapi in eastern Bangkok to King Rama I Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut) in central Bangkok. Last June, three people were injured when a speeding No. 8 Bus hit a BTS skytrain pillar. In March 2014, a No. 8 Bus hit and crushed a motorcycle, instantly killing a 13-year-old boy. In 2011, one person was killed and another injured while waiting at a bus stop when a No. 8 Bus was competing with another bus for space to stop at the bus stop.
“We speed for our customers, terrifying all in Ladprao, dashing all the way to King Rama I Memorial Bridge! Running straight ahead like we are fleeing a disaster! Yelling out “duck” to all that we pass! Giving way to every motorcycle! Striking every curve and lane around Victory Monument! Even before the bus stop, the door opens! Rushing crazily to Central Ladprao! Cutting off the police cars! Checkpoint? No need to stop! 8 baht all along the route - if you don’t pay, get the fuck off!,” wrote a dissatisfied customer on social media.
To find out the source of the poor service, the author studied the quality of public transportation services and found that unfair working conditions for drivers and ticket collectors are the main source of poor service.
Patranit Jitsamruay is a third year student in journalism at Silpakorn University. This report, originally published in Thai on Prachatai, is part of her Prachatai 2014 fellowship for youth, and translated into English by Andrew Alan Johnson.
People get in and out of Bus Line 8 at Victory Monument, one of the busiest bus stops in Bangkok
Public transportation is the most common means of travel for the population of Bangkok. According to Bangkok’s Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), around three million people use mass transportation each day. Underneath the BMTA are also a variety of state-run enterprises affiliated with the Ministry of Transportation, arranging motorized transport within Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakan; altogether 114 routes with 7,253 vehicles, including 3,509 BMTA vehicles and 3,744 private vehicles. But today, the number of vehicles in service is declining. According to the latest BMTA report (June 2014), there were only 5,226 vehicles in service, including 2,526 from the BMTA and 2,700 private.
Outside of the problems of having too few cars in service, traffic accidents also pose a problem. Statistics on cases of traffic accidents from the National Police Headquarters (December 2013) revealed that, within Bangkok, large, public passenger vehicles had 520 accidents between October of 2011 until May of 2013. Data from the Foundation for Consumers identifies 374 incidents, with 512 fatalities and 5,208 injuries. Of these, buses were involved 29 times, with 30 deaths and 100 injuries.
Complaints, as well, are common. Statistics in a 2014 report on bus transportation from the Land Transport Department indicate that the receipt of complaints to the Passenger Control Center’s emergency 1584 number, there were about 7,029 total complaints. The BMTA received 2,003 of these, up 330 from the previous year’s total. The complaints received by the BMTA can be grouped into three basic categories: the first being that the bus did not stop at the appointed stop (768 complaints), the second being that the bus was driven in a frightening manner (609 complaints), and the third being that the bus staff were rude (308 complaints). Within the private bus sector, there were 5,029 complaints, up 811 from the previous year’s total. Within the three categories of complaint, there were 2,161 complaints that the driver drove in a frightening manner, 1,184 complaints that the driver did not stop in the correct place, and 909 complaints that the staff were rude.
Other studies also support these varied kinds of complaints against private buses (both regular and air-conditioned). These complaints (collected between 2010 and 2014) can be divided into five distinct categories, in order, that 1) drivers drove in a frightening manner, 2) the bus did not stop at the appointed stop 3) the staff were rude, 4) passengers were made to exit before the correct stop, and 5) drivers and ticket collectors smoked cigarettes on duty.
Bus Line 8: First in problems
Complaint statistics about problems on private bus lines from 1 October, 2013 until 30 September 2014 (collected from emergency phone line 1384) revealed that, amongst private, regular buses, Bus Line 8 (Bang Kapi – Rama I Memorial Bridge) was amongst the top three bus lines receiving complaints for 11 months and received the most complaints for 10 months. On average, Bus Line 8 received about 20 complaints per month.
Passengers of the 8 line claim vehicles are old, while employees are afraid that they are unfit for service
Wirapong Natapatanapong is a student at Kasetsart University and uses the 8 line regularly. He says that “The condition of the buses are old. You can’t open some of the windows. The driver and the ticket collectors scold the customers and don’t care about them or their safety as much as they should. They drive fast - frighteningly fast. They hit the brakes hard and don’t stop at the bus stops. They don’t close the door of the bus and talk on the phone when they should be on duty – this is a problem that has been going on for a long time. And, regarding the complaint box, the lax manner in which this is done shows the thinking of the operators of Bus Line 8 – some of them you can’t even use, they’re so battered.”
Using Bus Line 8, the writer noticed a number of issues along the route. For one, Bus Line 8 confronts traffic jams, as the route goes past a lot of important places, like government sites, tourist sites, BTS stations, and subway stations. Additionally, there are a number of issues on the road itself, such as roadside stalls spilling out onto the street, or private cars, taxis, and vans parking on the street, so that it is impossible for the bus to stop at the bus stop.
This video, showing a driver and a ticket collector of Bus Line 8 are yelling at a passenger and forcing the passenger off the bus after the passenger complained of poor service. (See 0.28)
The broadcast on social media of this video, showing drivers and ticket collectors of Bus Line 8 using impolite language and forcing passengers off the bus, was a reason for the Ministry of Transportation to open a special investigation into Bus Line 8. The issue of service problems on Bus Line 8 had already been popular in mainstream media. But this video reinforced the impression that there was a problem with the service along Bus Line 8, along with a popularly-shared image of people packing into the bus until the wheels lifted off of the road, or a case where Bus Line 8 struck and killed a 13-year old bicyclist. In this last case, even though the driver of the bus was not found to be directly responsible, it later emerged that he did not yet have a driver’s license valid for public buses. He had been working only three weeks, and was still in the process of changing his license from an ordinary one to one valid for buses. Normally such a driver wouldn’t be working, but on the weekend there were simply too few drivers.
This case became widely cited, and it led to Bus Line 8 becoming a key point of criticism and investigation from the online community and infamy amongst the general population. But this case in turn led to a greater desire to understand the problematic service conditions of Bus Line 8. With this in mind, this writer interviewed employees of Bus Line 8.
Lacking regular pay, employees of Line 8 lack rely upon commissions from ticket sales
Somchai (pseudonym), a driver of Line 8, reported that the company paid drivers a daily wage of about 100 baht. In addition to this, they were able to keep a 10 per cent commission on ticket sales. Ticket collectors brought home a daily wage of 50 baht in addition to a five per cent commission. On average, Somchai is able to drive the route about four times a day, selling on average 5,000 – 6,000 tickets per day. This amount has fallen in previous years on account of an increase in other buses in service along Line 8’s route, especially private and air conditioned buses - AC Bus Line 8 (Romklao Housing – King Rama I Memorial Bridge), normally gets the most passengers.
Congested traffic: Employees of Line 8 work 15 hours a day
Now, Somchai is beginning to fear that he must work on average 15 hours per day. This time is uncertain, as the time that it takes to travel one route differs depending on a number of factors, including: the condition of the traffic on the roads, the condition of the buses (bus drivers and ticket collector cannot choose on which bus they will work), and the time of departure. These all influence the experience of each bus driver and ticket collector and have an influence on how many hours they daily work.
Bearing a heavy burden, employees still try to avoid lashing out at customers in order to avoid complaints.
Somjai (pseudonym), a ticket collector on Bus Line 8, said, “I am under a lot of pressure from the recent press on service issues. This has led to new training measures from the Department of Land Transportation as well as criticism directly from passengers. I have to be extremely patient in my work, and am now trying to keep from speaking back to passengers in order to avoid risking a complaint.”
Chatchat Sitthipan, then Minister of Transport, tested the No 8 Bus service himself.
Chatchat Sithiphan, former Minister of Transportation, uploaded pictures and posts onto his own fanpage (Facebook page: Chatchat Sinthiphan), on the 15 August, 2013, when Chatchat was still the Minister of Transportation and after he had learned of the problematic conditions of service along Bus Line 8. Chatchat said that he had invited those business owners overseeing Bus Line 8 to come together to think about how to correct its problems in both the short and long term. He asked if repairs, extra tolls, or more studies might be needed. The group concluded that there was indeed one pressing issue that needed correction: posting the number of the bus in large letters in order that passengers and the general population would be able to see it more clearly, so that they could mark down the number and make more clear complaints about the service. Additionally, the group recommended that the business owners be more strict with their employees, especially in terms of uniforms, manners of the drivers and ticket collectors, and, finally, they installed a complaint box.
Athit Maikaew, a passenger of Bus Line 8, reported that “I use the Bus Line 8 service regularly. The service on this line has some good points and some bad points, but it all depends on the behavior of the bus driver and ticket collectors”
In order to see better the various conditions, problems, and implications for service on Bus Line 8, the author interviewed employees of other bus lines for comparison, especially those lines that travel along the same route, from Romklao Housing, in Eastern Bangkok, – King Rama I Memorial Bridge.
Nongyao Wangthaphan, 48 years old, is a ticket collector on Air-Conditioned Bus Line 8 and has worked there for six years. She receives a monthly salary from the business and is able to get a commission on tickets according to the rate that the company sets, which means that she has a monthly income as well as a daily one. Drivers and ticket collectors receive about 28,000 baht and 15,000 baht, respectively, each month – a good base salary beneath a good rate of profits so long as one worked hard. Nongyao works on average 10-12 hours per day or more, each hour in the middle of traffic. The company sets very clearly the times for departure and the numbers of trips that the bus makes, and for their part, the vehicles come with GPS and stick to the route strictly.
Krektchai Khongthong, a passenger of Air-Conditioned Bus Line 8, reports that “I’m satisfied with the service of AC Bus Line 8. The employees are fairly committed to polite service. I changed to taking AC Bus Line 8 instead of the ordinary Bus Line 8 because of the air conditioning – it makes it easier to travel. The conditions of the cars are better, too, and it makes me feel more confident about safety.”
Aside from those mentioned above, the author interviewed employees of AC Bus Line 29, from Rangsit Center School – Hua Lamphong, a private, air-conditioned bus that has the highest service issues, receiving 1 out of every 3 complaints within the past 11 months.
Private bus employees make stressful plans in order to pull in passengers
Buses, minibuses and taxis compete for parking spots and passengers at BTS Chatuchak
Phaithun Samniangdi, 42 years old, is an employee of AC Bus Line 29. He worries that being a private bus line employee means a high level of everyday stress. He spends time planning and worrying about each trip himself. As having a lot of passengers means that the amount of money that he is able to bring home also increases, he drives fast and tries to close the intervals between himself and vehicles on the same bus line, or other bus lines who drive the same route, or the free buses (paid for by tax money), all in order to get the most passengers from other vehicles onto his own bus.
With wages not quite 300, daily profits are also cut if drivers do not drive according to the company’s orders
Pangsi Phonok, 48 years old, is a ticket collector on AC Bus Line 29 and has been a bus employee 20 years. She reported that drivers and ticket collectors on her line don’t have a salary from the company. Instead, they receive a sum of about 300 baht per day, but drivers and ticket collectors have to make at least four rounds each day if they are to get the complete sum. If drivers and ticket collectors are unable to make four rounds, they must cut their profits. For instance, for one round, they will receive 75 baht; for two rounds, 150 baht; and for three rounds, 200 baht. In addition to this 300 baht, they are able to collect a special amount for selling over the number of tickets set by the company. For instance, if they sell 8,000 baht worth of tickets, they are able to claim 100 baht. If they sell 9,500 baht worth of tickets, they can claim 150 baht, and so on. Outside of this, they additionally collect a profit per ticket sales every 15 days or one month. For instance, after employees sell 6,500 baht worth of tickets, the driver can collect four per cent of subsequent sales and the ticket collectors can collect two per cent each. So profits slowly increase with ticket sales – each day they sell approximately 8,500 baht worth of tickets.
Drivers and ticket collectors can make at most five round trips each day. On average these trips last about 3.5 hours each, meaning that employees work on average about 14 hours per day. Normally, drivers and ticket collectors are able to select one particular bus on which to work, something that allows them some degree of control over the conditions of the bus and the ability to choose their fellow co-workers, except when workers are not able to show up to work or when the bus is under repair. Each day, before the bus leaves on its route, bus drivers must inspect the starting condition of the bus themselves.
What we find here is that the difference in the conditions of employment has an effect upon the number of complaints received. A very clear example of this connection was seen when the author interviewed the employees of Bus Line 45 (Samrong, Samut Prakan – Si Phraya Pier) and Bus Line 522 (Rangsit – Victory Monument), one ordinary BMTA bus and one air-conditioned private bus, in order to see the difference between public and private buses in service.
Employee salaries start low, compensation can’t be controlled. The work is hard, many risks
Nawaphon Wangsakul, a bus driver on line 45 (Samrong– Si Phraya Pier), reports that he came back to work as a BMTA bus driver not long after he quit his private business. The starting monthly income for a bus driver or ticket collector is very low: only 6,080 baht or 4,880 baht, respectively. The starting daily profits are only 50 baht and 20 baht (respectively), and the overtime costs are 30 and 26 baht per hour (respectively). Profits from ticket sales are one and 0.5 satang per ticket, all told amounting to about 13,000 baht per month. Nawaphon works on average about 14 hours per day, completing about three round trips. In ordinary traffic, he takes about three hours per round trip, but if the traffic is congested, he takes up to seven hours per round trip. Thus, between the varied ticket commissions, his daily work, and the constant risk of accident on the highways, he finds the working life as a bus driver as an uncertain one.
Employees of free buses bear a heavy burden of servicing all kinds of passengers
Somphong Sribanthao, 42 years old, is a ticket collector on Bus Line 45. She has worked for the bus company for 17 years, and reports that the drivers and ticket collector on tax-funded buses must meet with all kinds of passengers, including the mentally disabled, the handicapped, and others who cannot help themselves and who come to use the free services. Passengers often ride the bus without getting off, urinating and defecating on the seats. Because of the public nature of these buses, employees are unable to deny them service as private bus employees can.
Employees of the BMTA are afraid that their buses are operating at only 60 per cent effectiveness. Private buses cut them off and compete for passengers. They are not as safe as they should be.
Somphong continued, saying that the conditions of the buses entering public service at present are at about 60 per cent of what they should be, as the buses entering service are over 20 years old. The conditions of the buses are a constant obstacle for employees to face, and these poor conditions create unsafe conditions for the passengers as well. Aside from this, the employees face problems from the private buses, taxis, private cars, and delivery trucks that cut them off in traffic or park at bus stops. This in turn prevents buses from picking up or dropping off passengers at the stop and thus creates problems with complaints from passengers.
Employees of BMTA buses have a regular income, while the employees of private buses do not – a much worse system.
Amnuay Phutthasuwan, 57 years old, is a ticket collector on AC Bus Line 522 (Rangsit – Victory Monument). She reports that her income is about 27,000 baht each month, between salary and a five per cent commission on ticket sales. After she sells 4,500 baht worth of tickets, the commission falls to one per cent (the standard commission in the old system). She works on average 14 hours each day and makes at most 2.5 round trips. For employees in this new system, they get a regular salary along with their daily commission and hourly wage.
Amnuay has been a bus employee for 30 years for the BMTA. She claims that one can see the difference very clearly between the welfare of those working for the BMTA and those working for private bus lines: the BMTA workers are under a governmental system: there is a regular salary, one can have leave from work, health care, family support, and retirement. This differs from employees of private bus lines, who do not have a regular income; who, if they do not work, do not get paid; and most of whose money usually comes from commissions on ticket sales, causing them drive fast in order to get the maximum number of passengers. As all of these factors contribute to an increasingly precarity in labor, causes private bus line employees to work more hours than BMTA workers. All of these factors ultimately contribute to the difference in service between BMTA and private bus lines.
We can see that the problems for bus employees are connected. For drivers, ticket collectors, workers of BMTA and private lines alike, congested traffic poses one particular problem as it prevents workers from being able to predict how many hours they will work in a day, and causes them to be crammed together in traffic jams more than eight hours per day. Parked vehicles blocking bus stops prevent buses from picking up passengers at marked stops. In addition, problems in service stem from a lack of concern for the welfare of the workers, such as not having a place for workers to rest, shops, bathrooms, etc. The time that the workers spend on board the buses is exhausting: they cannot eat at regular hours, and they are not able to choose the time that they use the restrooms. When they reach the starting and ending point of the route, they still do not have a good place to rest. All of this makes employees have to search for their own means of maintaining their personal comfort, something that takes time away from their work and contributes to health problems (especially digestive problems and muscle problems).
In addition, drivers and ticket collectors from the BMTA and the various private lines all receive different commissions. Some commissions depend upon the length of time each employee has spent working, and others differ by the various agreements set by each company. For the most part, employees of private bus lines do not receive a regular salary, meaning that their income largely rests upon commissions on tickets, something which means that they must try to find the most passengers in order to glean the most profits.
Bus supervisor: employees’ welfare is overlooked, something that leads to accidents for both employees and passengers.
Air Force Squadron Leader Prachub Okfu, the supervisor of the bus hangar of Bus Line 45 (Samrong – Si Phraya Pier), reports that the welfare of the employees is often overlooked. Every day, he uses his own money to purchase water for the drivers and ticket collectors to drink. For Squadron Leader Prachub, at the beginning and end of routes there must be a restroom and enough water to drink for the employees, but now these services are lacking.
As he lets the buses out of the gate, he stresses that it is necessary to let them go at proper intervals: neither bunched up too tight nor leaving long intervals between them. Today, the total numbers of buses on line 45 has dropped to 23 (whereas it had been 30) owing to the number of buses undergoing repairs. Now, there are few drivers and ticket collectors, as the burden of this line of work is heavy and the commissions are low, making for a lack of people coming to apply to be drivers or ticket collectors.
According to Squadron Leader Prachub, accidents involving buses have various causes. These include: poor conditions of the buses, which often lack critical parts; drivers and ticket collectors who are negligent in their duties; passengers who are not mindful of their own safety (using the phone when they are boarding or exiting the bus, for instance); and the conditions of traffic along the route of travel. To try and minimize these accidents, the company carefully investigates the permits of drivers and ticket collectors before hiring them, and makes sure that these various permits are renewed in a timely manner. Also, employees are given a physical examination before departing on a route, including a check for alcohol levels. They have a transportation inspector as well as a special inspector who looks after workers from the BMTA and vehicles from private companies on the road constantly.
Union says hourly employees working too long for too small commissions, something that leads to service problems
Chutima Boonchai, the Secretary-General of the Bangkok Transport Worker’s Union, reports that the work-related problems that arise in Bangkok’s transportation sector can be grouped into two categories. The first of these has to do with working overly long hours: many drivers and ticket collectors work over 8 hours a day. But correcting this issue would be quite difficult, because of the often snarled traffic conditions and the poor quality of the buses for service. In turn, these factors especially worry drivers and ticket collectors, creating stress that can cause a lot of health problems. Also, the number of buses on the road has decreased because of the large number of buses under repair, which causes buses to enter public service that are not fully functional – creating unsafe conditions for employees, passengers, and those along the road. Along with the decrease in buses, the number of drivers and ticket collectors has also decreased, as old workers retire and the BMTA does not have sufficient new workers applying. This deficit in turn is largely because the starting salary is low while the workload is heavy. What all of this means is that the BMTA has too few cars in service relative to the needs of the public, and forces those drivers and ticket collectors that are working to work more hours. Finally, those workers that the BMTA does have lack proper toilets and places for drinking water. Chutima said that the Bangkok Transport Worker’s Union has submitted these problems to the BMTA, and is now waiting for the result.
Chutima Boonchai, the Secretary-General of the Bangkok Transport Worker’s Union
Chutima continued, saying that there still is not a system of welfare for bus employees. If employees are considered important, they should be provided with basic needs: there should be a rest stop at the start and end of a route that has a toilet, drinking water, a store with supplies and food, etc. Currently, employees have to find these things themselves, something that takes away time from their work and adds to their personal expenses. Were the system fair, the numbers of new employees would increase.
Finally, Chutima spoke about the wages that employees rely upon, saying that one can see a clear relationship between these wages and the quality of service. Even though the union considers wages for drivers and ticket collectors to be quite small, employees can rely upon a steady income and as a result try to give the best service to the public. For public employees, wages come out of a mutual agreement amongst union employees and thereby set a standard for service and compensation. But for private bus line employees, this system is lacking, leading to a sense of uncertainty. Compensation amongst private bus line employees rises and falls depending on the numbers of tickets sold. If there are many passengers, then employees can collect a high wage - therefore private bus drivers drive fast and aggressively, cutting off other cars, and only stop at bus stops where many potential passengers are waiting., so that they can claim a higher commission and reduce the amount of time that they are working. In this way, it is not that private bus line employees have problems fundamentally different in nature from union employees, but rather they lack a system that they can rely upon. They lack basic welfare – most companies don’t even have insurance for their employees. The responsibility of owning companies and the rules that they establish for vehicle maintenance and the welfare of their employees is quite low, something that is a factor behind many of the accidents, service problems and passenger complaints.
Road Safety group points to drivers, cars, and the conditions of the roads as causes of traffic accidents, and proposes to make data available to the public
Thanapong Jinwong, the Manager of the Centre for Road Safety Project, reports that road accidents from public vehicles arise from three main causes. The first of these lies with the drivers: drivers drive too quickly, are exhausted, they hug the right side of the road, and they pass other vehicles too closely. Secondly, some vehicles have been modified to pack in more passengers than is safe. And lastly, on the road there are 85 roads that have not been investigated for safe infrastructure – some with a grade of over seven per cent, (linked up, these roads would stretch over three km). These all have a bearing on the duties of the drivers, including commissions given per round trip or numbers of passengers, and the safety of the vehicles that they are given to drive (managers mostly have only on average one to two vehicles, thus decreasing their readiness for safety). The basis of bus accidents stems from these, from drivers who drive too quickly, other drivers who park in the middle of the road and at the bus stops, and having vehicles that are not up to the basic standards of service.
To decrease the number of accidents, Thanapong suggested that the Ministry of Transportation work more closely with the BMTA union in order to increase the efficiency of issuing licenses to work on public transportation. As for private bus lines, Thanapong would work on improving the system of management, establishing clear standards of responsibility for repeated problems. Finally, he suggests that the Ministry of Transportation should collect and make public data on each quarter in order to raise public concern and awareness and thereby have public help in creating these systems of standards. This database would have both drivers’ and managers’ records, thus improving the issuance of permits and making a better system minimizing risk.
Labor researchers and employees of private buses work together to improve working conditions
A BMTA bus. The blue banner reads "Free bus from the people's taxes"
The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation recently conducted an investigation of the lives and work of female employees in the BMTA, collecting data from 761 women’s employee groups within the BMTA and on routes in 8 districts between 1 December 2013 until 31 January 2014. They found that female employees often had issues relating to family care: 334 women surveyed were the sole caretakers of a family, and 466 women surveyed were indebted for more than 100,000 baht. Over 90 per cent of female employees experienced some of the following: stress from being in traffic jams for most of the day, exhaustion, muscle inflammation or weakness, and working too-long hours without rest. 80 per cent of employees experienced issues related to holding back urine, including kidney stones, excretory problems, or urinary infections. 70 per cent of employees reported a variety of problems, including: problems with superiors; sexual harassment; unwelcome teasing or other problems with co-workers; arranging inappropriate schedules; stress from work; gastrointestinal problems, etc. 50 per cent of drivers reported back pain from driving for too-long periods of time. 40 per cent of employees experienced a traffic accident or reported pinched nerves from uncomfortable seats, and 28.4 per cent reported wearing adult diapers because of the lack of availability of toilets.
Jaded Chaowilai, the director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation and the researcher behind the above study, reports that the base costs of hiring and employment at the BMTA are extremely low. This is because of the low minimum wage. Ideally, the minimum wage should be enough to support a family, but in capitalist system takes advantage of minimum wage workers, assuming that a minimum wage should only be enough for one person, not a person and their family. For some employees, both women and men, they are the only people working within their family, and must support the entire family with their wages. This makes these employees work harder and harder in order to make additional wages from overtime. This in turn leads to health problems for these employees as well as problems within their families. For women, if they must work late, this also presents a safety problem in travelling back home, as they risk sexual assault.
Jaded continued, saying that the case of hiring conditions for both the BMTA and private companies, where employees did not bring home the minimum wage of 300 baht per day, formed a natural point of comparison. The low wages in private companies meant that employees had to work overtime, clearly showing that they were not earning enough. Jaded asserted that this study showed that there indeed exists a problem that should be addressed.
Bus employees from the BMTA and private bus lines shared many problems. For instance, their long working hours lead to health problems (e.g. urinary tract diseases, strokes, kidney stones), so much so that some employees must wear diapers to work. Employees of private bus lines do not have any collective organization through which they can voice complaints, study solutions to their problems and find just solutions, or protect their individual rights. This reduces the numbers of employees available and means that the welfare for those employees who do remain with the company does not improve. This is the weakest point in hiring employees for private bus lines, as the owners of private bus businesses continually look for their own benefit, seek to maximize their own profit. Thus, to correct these issues, Jaded argued that his group must investigate the business and hiring practices, and transportation labor unions must help this investigation by calling for the rights of employees of private bus lines. If private bus line employees are taken advantage of in this way, the problems that follow include stressful service and reckless driving.
Jaded concluded that the BMTA – the organization that brings in outside, state-owned businesses that run private bus lines - must look into why their employees are not doing well. They must ask if their employees are being taken advantage of or not. They must see that their employees are working hard for little money, that their working hours are unjustly long, longer than the law allows. Because, if employees of Bus Line 8 made a just hourly wage, they wouldn’t have to work overtime, they wouldn’t have to fight for a larger number of passengers and the commission on their tickets.
Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.
• Simple steps to support Prachatai English
1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank
2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”