Singapore — Three more bus drivers have joined five colleagues in suing SBS Transit (SBST) over a wage dispute.
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 it gave them did not match their working hour records.
One of the five drivers was allegedly expected to work for seven days in a row without a rest day and ended up working more than 44 hours in one week. Another driver, who has been employed by SBST for 10 years, claimed that he had been underpaid during the entire period of his employment.
The five drivers – three Singaporeans and two Malaysians – sought support from the relevant authorities but were allegedly unable to resolve the matter satisfactorily. They subsequently decided to sue SBS transit over the wage dispute.
Three more drivers, who are all Malaysians, have since joined the five SBST workers in their lawsuit and have accused SBST of underpaying them and not giving them enough rest.
The three drivers, who filed fresh claims against SBST on Dec 24, have accused it of making them work four additional hours of “built-in overtime” per week so they worked more than 44 hours a week, contravening the Employment Act.
The three drivers claimed that they were expected to work 12 days straight before being entitled to two rest days or work seven days straight before being entitled to a rest day.
Asserting that this arrangement contradicted his clients’ letter of appointment, Mr M Ravi — who is representing all eight bus drivers — called the arrangement a “flagrant breach” of Section 36(1) of the Employment Act, which states that every employee shall be allowed a rest day in each week.
Referring to Section 41 of the Act, which defines a week as a continuous period of seven days that begins on Sunday midnight, Mr Ravi said: “It appears to be Parliament’s overarching purpose that the week should commence at midnight of the rest day, to prevent workers from having to work for continuous periods longer than seven days without rest.”
SBST has held that its work arrangement does allow one rest day each week for drivers but Mr Ravi argued that the firm’s position is a “transparent attempt to defeat the purpose” of the Employment Act, which seeks to protect workers from exploitation.
Mr Ravi also argued that SBST had contravened MOM’s regulated pay rate for work completed during an employee’s rest days at their employer’s request. Section 37(3) of the Act states that payment for work done on a rest day should be as follows:
- One day’s salary if work is done for up to half the normal working hours;
- Two days’ salary if work is done for more than half the working hours; or
- Two days’ salary and overtime pay if work is done beyond the normal daily working hours.
Mr Ravi added that his clients should have been paid overtime pay of 1.5 times their hourly rate of pay, in accordance with Section 38(4) of the Employment Act.
Like the five bus drivers who originally filed claims against SBST, the three drivers are also still with SBST. They have, however, resigned as members of the National Transport Workers’ Union.
All eight bus drivers are seeking damages to be assessed for wages, statutory interest of 5.33 per cent every year and costs.
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