SINGAPORE: The public bus industry is looking to increase the hiring of local workers, with the aim of employing 1,200 Singaporean bus drivers in 2020, said Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday (Jun 18).
The response has been positive so far, with about 300 Singaporeans recruited to become bus drivers so far this year, he added.
Speaking during an online dialogue session with bus drivers, trainees and other representatives from the bus sector, Mr Khaw said the 10,000 bus drivers here are currently made up of a “healthy mix” of both local and foreign bus drivers.
The industry - comprising bus operators Go Ahead, SBS Transit, SMRT and Tower Transit - is also looking to hire about 200 permanent residents in addition to the 1,200 Singaporeans, he said.
This would result in a 14 per cent increase in the bus driver workforce, Mr Khaw said, noting that the attrition rate among bus drivers is typically less than 10 per cent every year.
The COVID-19 crisis presents a “golden opportunity” to increase hiring among Singaporeans whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic, the minister added.
“We are targeting those who are already driving - let’s say, driving for taxis, driving for tourist buses and private buses. They have the skills,” Mr Khaw said.
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National Transport Workers’ Union executive secretary Melvin Yong, who also attended the dialogue session, said that more locals have joined as bus captains since the 2016 introduction of the bus contracting model, where buses and other related infrastructure came under government ownership.
Between 2016 and 2019, more than 600 locals joined the industry, Mr Yong said, adding that salaries for bus drivers have also increased by more than 20 per cent since 2015.
While ridership for buses and trains had plunged due of the COVID-19 outbreak, it was still necessary to keep them running to allow essential workers to commute to and from work, Mr Khaw said.
With many Malaysian bus drivers unable to cross the Causeway because of the country’s movement control order, bus drivers in Singapore have had to work “extra hard”, he noted.
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In an interview with CNA later on Thursday, Mr Khaw said other sectors in the public transport network will also need to ramp up hiring, noting that the MRT network is set to expand further in the coming years.
Singapore’s MRT network will grow to 360km by 2030, up from about 230km, with eight MRT lines stretching across the island.
“So we are recruiting engineers, technicians, and we will need them over the next few years,” he said.
Mr Khaw added that scholarships and traineeships will help build a “healthy pipeline of future talent” to meet Singapore’s land transport needs.
Additional reporting by Gwyneth Teo.