Singapore — SBS Transit (SBST) has said that it is “very proud” of the way it has acted in the interest of drivers and that it intends to fight new wage dispute claims brought on by three drivers “with vigour”.

In September, a group of five SBST bus drivers claimed that the public transport operator paid them overtime pay below the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) regulated rate for overtime work and that the monthly pay slips SBST gave them did not match their working hour records. This month, three more drivers joined the lawsuit against SBST.

All eight drivers are represented by Mr M Ravi, who is arguing that his clients worked more than 44 hours a week and were not paid adequate overtime pay, contravening the Employment Act. The bus drivers are seeking damages to be assessed for wages, statutory interest of 5.33 per cent every year and costs.

The fresh claims against SBST, by the three drivers who have just joined the suit, were filed on Dec 24 — weeks before the mediation for the first five drivers was set to be heard on Jan 8. Mr Ravi said his first five clients hope that their “reasonable claims” can be resolved through mediation but are prepared to go to trial if mediation fails.

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SBST’s lawyer, Mr Davinder Singh of Davinder Singh Chambers, has however requested the State Courts to reschedule the mediation date to Feb 27.

Meanwhile, SBST has said when approached for comment on the new lawsuits that it is “very proud” of how it has acted in drivers’ interests.

In October, SBST referred the wage dispute claims brought on by the first five drivers to the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC), which controls and directs industrial practices and mediates on industrial clashes, arguing that the case concerned matters that arose from collective agreements that SBST entered into with the National Transport Workers’ Union.

The IAC later ruled that the bus drivers’ terms are equal to or more favourable than those they are entitled to under the Employment Act and that SBST acted in compliance with the Act since the drivers were given 45 minutes of daily break times.

IAC President Justice Chan Seng Onn found last month that the workers are not working more than eight hours a day or 44 hours a week, but worked 43.5 hours a week, in compliance with the Act when their daily breaks were deducted. He added that the Employment Act’s definition of “working hours” excluded break times.

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Pointing to the IAC ruling, SBST’s Senior Vice-President of Corporate Communications, Ms Tammy Tan, told TODAY when approached for comment on the fresh claims:

“SBS Transit is very proud of the fact that it has not just complied with the law, but has gone beyond that in the interests of its bus captions. We will naturally defend these claims with vigour.”