5 bus drivers sue SBS Transit in dispute over working hours and overtime pay

5 bus drivers sue SBS Transit in dispute over working hours and overtime pay

sbs transit bus file
File photo of SBS Transit buses. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Five bus drivers are suing their employer SBS Transit, accusing the transport operator of underpaying them for overtime hours and for getting them to work more than 44 hours a week in breach of the Employment Act. 

Their lawyer, Mr M Ravi of Carson Law Chambers, served the writ of summons on Monday (Sep 23). 

Court documents state that one of the drivers, Mr Chua Qwong Meng, was expected to work for seven days in a row before getting a day off, which was not what he and SBS Transit agreed on based on the letter of appointment. This was also in breach of the Employment Act.

Mr Chua also claimed he worked more than 44 hours a week, and that he was not paid the regulated overtime pay. Records of his working hours did not match the monthly pay slips he received, according to his statement of claim. 

Under Ministry of Manpower (MOM) guidelines, employees are entitled to an overtime pay of 1.5 times their hourly basic pay at a minimum - if their basic salaries do not exceed S$4,500. 

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Mr Ravi told CNA that the four other bus drivers filed similar claims. 

In response to queries, SBS Transit's senior vice president of corporate communications Tammy Tan said on Tuesday: "SBS Transit confirms that writs of summons were served by Carson Law Chambers on behalf of five of our bus captains yesterday. We are in discussion with our lawyers.

"We intend to defend against the allegations rigorously."

MEETINGS HELD WITH UNION AND COMPANY

According to court documents, Mr Chua had lodged a report with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management, and his case was referred to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

A meeting was held between Mr Chua and the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) on Jul 19, and another meeting took place with SBS Transit's parent company ComfortDelGro on Aug 27. 

"No conclusive answers" were given to Mr Chua after the meetings, court documents said.

It was also stated that Mr Chua pursued the matter by asking for a breakdown of his monthly pay and sending four "chaser emails". But SBS Transit "replied by restating their position which is in breach of the contract", said the statement of claim. 

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On the significance of the case, Mr Ravi told CNA: "Essentially the ruling may affect a few thousand drivers if the court rules in our client's favour.

"They seem to have a lot of overtime work and that is a serious cause for commuters' safety."

Mr Ravi also referred to his comments on Carson Law Chambers' Facebook page.

"At a regulatory level, questions arise whether MOM’s regulated pay rate has been breached and what statutory sanctions (if any) there may be; the extent of various Employment Act breaches that may have occurred with regard to rest days and overtime pay in the Contracts of Employment," he said. 

In a media statement, NTWU's executive secretary Melvin Yong said: "The National Transport Workers’ Union is unable to comment further as the matter is presently the subject of legal proceedings."

MOM told CNA on Wednesday that it is looking into the case.

"One of the bus captains had visited the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for assistance. As he was a union member from a unionised company, he was assisted by the National Trades Union Congress and National Transport Workers’ Union. No formal claim was filed with TADM during his visit," said an MOM spokesperson.

"As the bus captains have since withdrawn from union membership, they can now consider lodging their claims with TADM for mediation," the spokesperson added.

Source: CNA/jt(gs)

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