SBS bus travel on the Singapore's Chinatown on September 27, 2013 in Singapore. SBS Transit Limited is a of the largest public transport operator in Singapore from Shutterstock.com

SBS Transit bus drivers surprised by company’s move to refer wage dispute to IAC

Public transport operator SBS Transit Ltd will be referring a recent wage dispute case filed by five bus drivers against the company to the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) for its decision.

In a statement on Fri (18 Oct), SBS Transit said that it “has acted in accordance with its obligations in law and under the relevant agreements and practices” towards its employees, including the five bus drivers.

The claims made by the bus drivers, SBS Transit added, “raise issues that arise from and affect collective agreements that SBS Transit has entered into with the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU)”.

“Therefore, in accordance with the law, in the interests of all of SBS Transit’s Bus Captains and in keeping with the letter and spirit of its excellent relationship with the NTWU, SBS Transit will be referring these issues to the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) for its decision,” the company added.

SBS Transit “submitted to the jurisdiction of the State Court”; IAC should only be used in deadlock between the NTWU and the employer: Plaintiffs’ legal representative Carson Law Chambers

M Ravi, a lawyer from Carson Law Chambers, representing the five bus drivers in their separate lawsuits against SBS Transit over similar issues, responded in a statement today that its clients are “surprised” by SBS Transit’s latest statement.

Highlighting that the IAC “should rightly be used when there is a deadlock between the NTWU and the employer”, he said that SBS Transit “had submitted to the jurisdiction of the State Court” by filing its defence through its lawyers.

“To respect the rule of law and the jurisdiction of the Court, the redress ought to continue in the Courts and can be resolved amicably (if so desired) by utilising the mediation stage of the Court process,” the statement read.

Mr Ravi also stressed that its clients had only filed their claims in the Magistrates’ Court “after all discussion and internal processes with the employer and the union had exhausted”.

“Having lost their confidence in the NTWU in the first place, our clients withdrew from the NTWU and rightfully sought redress from the Court as a means to seek justice,” he added.

SBS Transit allegedly “breached the term of the contract on overtime pay and have underpaid the clients”: Carson Law Chambers

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.

According to law firm Carson Law Chambers today, their lawyer M Ravi argued that the aforementioned lawsuit is significant, as the immediate case is “the first wage dispute case of its kind involving Singapore’s bus operator”.

The ruling will not only affect Carson Law Chambers’ immediate clients in this case, but also thousands of other SBS transit drivers, as “[m]any have worked loyally and diligently for several years and back-pay”, said the firm.

M Ravi added that the possibility of a breach of MOM’s regulated pay rate needs to be examined in the immediate case, and that any “statutory sanctions”, if available, should be looked into accordingly.

Additionally, the suit will potentially delve into the “extent of various Employment Act breaches that may have occurred with regards rest days and overtime pay in the Contracts of Employment”, according to M Ravi.