Hougang Central Bus Interchange on a cloudy day. It is located directly above Hougang MRT Station. The bus interchange was planned to be an integrated transport hub (Photo by Kae Lee from Shutterstock.com)

SBS Transit appoints Davinder Singh Chambers in defence against five bus drivers’ lawsuits regarding wage dispute

Public transport operator SBS Transit Ltd has appointed Davinder Singh LLC to defend itself against the law suit filed by five of its bus drivers following a wage dispute.

Carson Law Chambers, the law firm representing the SBS Transit bus drivers, confirmed the matter in a Facebook post today (1 Oct).

“SBS Transit Ltd has appointed Davinder Singh Chambers LLC to defend the claims brought against it by 5 SBS drivers whom we are representing,” according to the firm, adding that the company has 14 days to file its defence.

Davinder Singh is also currently the acting solicitor for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the latter’s ongoing defamation suits against veteran blogger Leong Sze Hian and The Online Citizen‘s editor-in-chief Terry Xu.

Previously on 23 Sep, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at SBS Transit Tammy Tan told TOC in response to queries that the company has received the writs of summons served by Carson Law Chambers on behalf of five of its bus captains.

“We are in discussion with our lawyers. We intend to defend against the allegations rigorously,” added Ms Tan.

SBS “breached the term of the contract on overtime pay and have underpaid” its bus drivers: Plaintiffs’ acting solicitor M Ravi

In a writ of summons filed by lawyer M Ravi on 20 Sep and seen by TOC on 23 Sep, the bus drivers, who have been working for SBS Transit between three years to a decade, alleged that the company has “breached the term of the contract on overtime pay and have underpaid the clients”.

The above claim was made based on the discrepancy between the drivers’ working hour records and the monthly pay slips they had received from SBS Transit, which were below the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s regulated pay rate, the document read.

A statement of claim stressed that four of the bus drivers had already “commenced similar suits” against SBS Transit in the Magistrates Court previously, but were told to “wait for the decision” regarding their claim and report against the company.

“However, both the claim and report were ignored despite attending two (2) meetings with the National Transport Workers’ Union (“NTWU”) and ComfortDelGro respectively,” the document read, noting that the meetings took place in Jul and Aug.

The particular plaintiff in the statement of claim had “officially lodged a report to Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM)”, which was then referred to the National Trades Congress Union (NTUC).

However, he did not receive any “conclusive answers” after the meetings and decided to request “an official letter” from SBS Transit detailing the breakdown of his monthly pay in order “to better understand where the Defendants were coming from”.

While SBS Transit purportedly agreed to send such a letter within two days of the bus driver’s request, he did not receive any response from the company, following which he “sent out four (4) chaser emails” to the company.

SBS Transit allegedly replied by “restating their position which is in breach of the contract”, according to the statement of claim.

Among the alleged breaches included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • Expecting the plaintiff to work for “7 consecutive days prior to getting an off day”, which the plaintiff claimed was not what both he and SBS Transit had agreed upon in the Letter of Appointment – thus possibly breaching Section 36 of the Employment Act where an employee should be given a rest day per week, or a rest day after a continuous period of 30 hours if on shift; and
  • Putting the plaintiff in a position where he had worked “beyond 44 hours in a week”, which possibly contravenes Sections 38(1)(a) and 38(1)(b) of the Employment Act whereby an employee should not be required to work either more than 6 consecutive hours without a period of leisure, or more than 8 hours in a day, or more than 44 hours in a week.