The Ministry of Labor will launch an investigation into COESA, a San José bus company known to work its drivers up to 18 hours daily, following a report on the issue by The Tico Times (TT, Sept. 11).
The investigation has been prioritized as urgent by the Ministry of Labor, which acknowledged that the bus company’s actions have been dangerous and illegal.
Evidence was presented to Carlos Sánchez, a Ministry of Labor consultant, in the form of a report and a pay slip belonging to one of COESA’s drivers, revealing a starting time of 5:30 a.m. and an ending time of 10:43 p.m.
The country’s labor law states that a bus driver’s working day must not exceed 12 hours, including overtime.
Sánchez said, “In the last three years there have been great efforts made to investigate companies suspected of breaching the labor laws, and the truth is that there have been many cases of transport companies under investigation.
“I have notified the coordinator responsible for organizing inspections in the central region of San José and explained that this is an urgent matter. Exactly how long this will take, I am unable to say because there are many facets of the process, but it is now a priority.
“An inspector will visit the company, interview the staff and owners, inspect the salary books and then, should any evidence of wrongdoing be found, issue a notice period of up to one month to fix the problems. An inspector will then revisit the company to make sure it has complied. If not, the company is taken to court where it can face heavy fines and, in very serious cases, closure.”
Approximately 30 inspections have been made at transport companies within San José and Heredia during the past two years, according to Sánchez. Of the 30 companies suspected of flouting the labor laws, he said, 50 per cent were taken to court after failing to make the required changes.
“It is often the case that companies ignore the guidelines we issue to them, preferring to pay the fine and continue on as before,” Sánchez added.
COESA, a three-company consortium operating a fleet of 133 buses along 17 routes in the San José area, refused to comment on the latest development.
According to bus drivers from other city bus companies, all of whom earn approximately ¢8,766 per regular eighthour shift, the 18-hour shift with just a one hour daily break is nothing unusual. In fact, they agreed, it is commonplace.
A bus driver from the Transplusa bus company said, “I work 18 hours a day, six days a week. I know that the law says you shouldn’t, but if I don’t, I won’t earn enough.”