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Lawsuit by 13 bus drivers against SBS Transit will affect larger class of workers:

Law allows essential services workers to exceed prescribed working hours and work on rest days, says SBS Transit

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Singapore – The lawsuits filed by 13 bus drivers against transport operator over overtime pay contain important legal issues that would affect a larger class of workers in Singapore, said a judge on Thursday (Jun 10).

In their suits filed in 2019 and 2020, the workers claimed they were made to work without a rest day each week while their was , reported The Straits Times.

Justice Audrey Lim said in a written judgment that the Employment Act provides for mandated rest days and limits the hours of work to protect employees’ rights.

Justice Lim allowed for the case to be transferred to the High Court, noting: “The question of whether this can be ‘overridden’ in a case where an employee is deemed to provide essential services…is important, as it affects a larger population of workers in general and not just the immediate plaintiff or parties to the case.”

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Under the Act, an employer is permitted to require employees in essential services to work over the prescribed limit of hours as well as on rest days.

The questions raised require an interpretation of the provisions of the Act concerning rest days — whether they can be rescheduled so that an employee can be made to work for 12 consecutive days over a 14-day period.

Furthermore, the definition of “employees providing essential services” needs to be clarified to make sure whether bus drivers fall in this category, reports noted.

There would be potential adjustments on how employment contracts are drafted regarding rest days, computation and determination of work hours, said Justice Lim.

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Five bus drivers filed a magistrate’s court suit against SBS Transit on Sept 20, 2019. Eight others followed with a similar suit. The 13 affected workers are represented by lawyer M. Ravi.

It was reported that in 2020, the parties agreed that the suit of one plaintiff could be heard as a test case to save time and money.

As a result, the court’s decision and findings on Mr Chua Qwong Meng’s case will be binding on the rest.

In his suit, Mr Chua claims that SBS Transit had breached his employment contract, which began on April 3, 2017, as well as the Employment Act by failing to give him a rest day each week.

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Mr Chua also alleged being for overtime work, including on occasions when he worked on a rest day or a public holiday.

SBS Transit, however, denies his claims, asserting that it has complied with contractual obligations and laws, rules and regulations concerning prescribed working hours, overtime pay and rest days.

SBS Transit, which Senior Counsel Davinder Singh represents, notes that the law allows for employees providing “essential services” to exceed the prescribed working hours and work on a rest day.

Mr Chua applied to have his case transferred to the High Court in March 2021.

Mr Ravi argued that it involves an important question of law with the potential to affect all classes of employees in Singapore./TISG

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