Ejercito: Will the 4-day work week work?
People wonder whether the four-day work week will ease the traffic woes of Metro Manila. Senator Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, who is from San Juan, doesn’t think so.
The senator was the lone guest at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. The other scheduled guest, Chair Francis Tolentino of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, didn’t make it. He was caught in heavy traffic.
The four-day work week is the last desperate gimmick of the MMDA—which is running out of ideas on how to relieve the traffic congestion in the metropolis—and foolishly, the Civil Service Commission approved it. The MMDA has tried almost everything: color coding, truck ban, two lanes reserved for buses and one lane for motorcycles, lower speed limits, waiting stations for bus passengers, terminals for provincial buses, etc. None of them did any good.
The MMDA now believes that with employees working only four days a week, there would be three days when traffic would be light because of the extra day off for workers. Tolentino thinks that the workers would stay home during that extra day off, and, thus, there would be less vehicles and people on the streets. Senator Ejercito does not think so.
Most workers would not stay home. It would be one more day to go to the malls, the cinemas and the restaurants. The number of people and vehicles out on the streets would be almost the same.
Worse, traffic jams would last longer during the four working days because the employees would be working until 7 p.m. Instead of traffic jams lasting from 4.30 p.m. to 10 p.m., the nightmare would continue until well past midnight.
Besides, longer working hours translate to less productivity and efficiency, Ejercito pointed out. That cannot be avoided because of fatigue. That is why the eight-hour workday was devised. The average worker can work efficiently for only eight hours, he explained.
That four-day work week would also affect family life. The employee who has to hurry home to cook for the family would get there very late and the children would be starving by the time dinner is served. Eating a late dinner means staying up late and therefore waking up late the next morning and arriving late in schools and offices. And most of the children and adults would be too sleepy to learn and work efficiently.
It is surprising that after all these years, the MMDA still does not see the root of the problem: too many vehicles in too few streets. And the traffic jams will get worse through the years if the MMDA does not wise up.
Every year, 300,000 new cars are poured out into the streets by the car assemblers, most of which end up in Metro Manila. That does not include the luxury cars imported by car distributors, the vehicles smuggled in through the free ports, and the jeepneys, buses and trucks assembled from second-hand parts in Laguna, Cavite and Batangas.
It would not be so bad if the same number of vehicles were phased out every year, as is done in other countries. But our mechanics and body builders are so good that they can make a vehicle run almost forever with second-hand parts. Witness the jeepneys, which have been recycled from military jeeps dating back to World War II.
The owner of a vehicle will not willingly get rid of it because buying a new one would be prohibitive. In fact, vehicles sold second-hand only change owners. The vehicles stay in the streets.
Building more streets would not be practical. Where would those additional streets be found in crowded Metro Manila? Building skyways would be too costly, and these would also be full of vehicles in no time at all.
The solution is to move people, not vehicles, with a fast transport system so that car owners will leave their cars at home and take public transport. The trouble is that the elevated trains, which are fast, are too crowded. Falling in line to buy a ticket takes longer than the trip itself. The commuter trains of the Philippine National Railways are also very crowded, and the wait at the stations takes too long as there are very few trains. The PNR should be given funds to buy more trains and coaches so that it can transport more people.
The buses are another thing. There are far too many of them in Metro Manila, many of them illegally, so that the drivers—who are paid through the boundary system—purposely slow down and stay too long at waiting stations to pick up passengers and block the other buses behind them. Take a bus and you will grow gray hair waiting to get to your destination.
If you stand at Edsa during rush hours, you will see that many of the buses are half-empty. Therefore, they are occupying too much space without transporting many commuters.
But if the MMDA makes them stay at terminals until they are dispatched when needed by the number of passengers waiting to get rides, they would be able to get enough passengers quickly and move quickly through the streets.
When we have an efficient transport system, motorists will leave their cars at home and take public transport.
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