Bus drivers: Trying to make sense out of the numbers?

By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “SMRT bus drivers can return to five-day week – without pay rise” (ST, Sep 29).http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/smrt-bus-drivers-can-return-5-day-week-without-pay-rise-20120929
Wage increase: Back to square one?
Giving bus drivers the option to return to a five-day week without a pay rise, may be making a mockery of the wage re-structuring exercise.
After all, wasn’t the whole purpose of the exercise to increase the wages of low-wage bus drivers in Singapore?
Negative real wage increase?
Using data from SMRT’s website, I computed SMRT’s Staff and Related Costs per employee (total staff costs divided by number of employees) to be $42,283 in FY2003 and $47,768 in FY2011.
This is an increase of only 13 per cent over the last eight years, or an increase of only 1.5 per cent per annum.
After adjusting for inflation, the annualised real wage increase may have been negative.
Has real basic wage increased?
What is the basic wage per hour of a bus driver now, and in FY2003?
So far, giving the gross wage of bus drivers may not be truly addressing the issue of low wages, as we should focus on the basic wage per hour.
As the current impasse has shown, higher gross pay can always be achieved by getting workers to work longer hours.
More pay because of longer work hours?
In this connection, the trend of low wage workers like security guards, traffic wardens, cleaners and dishwashers, etc, having to work typically 12 hours a day for six days a week, in order to earn a decent wage which is typically less than $1,800, still puts such workers at some of the lowest per hour basic wage in Singapore.
It’s all about profits?
SMRT’s profits after tax increased by 163 per cent, from $13.9 million in 4Q2012 to $36.5 million in 1Q2013.
Despite all its problems like the breakdowns last year, it’s FY2012 profits were $119.9 million, and its FY2011 profits of $161.1 million was close to its historical record profits of $162.9 million in FY2010.
Surely, paying bus drivers a bit more may not put a big dent in its profits.
I hope that the union representing bus drivers will try to do more for them.