Following the lawsuit filed by eight bus drivers against the Industrial Arbitration Court’s (IAC)’s decision in a dispute between public transport operators, SBS Transit Ltd regarding overtime wages and rest days, more SBS Transit bus drivers have withdrawn from the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU).
Last year September, the SBS bus drivers filed a lawsuit against SBS Transit claiming that the bus company has “breached the term of the contract on overtime pay and have underpaid the clients”.
Following this, a hearing was conducted on 4 Nov last year to determine whether the public transport operators have the legal right to require their employees to work beyond the maximum of 44 hours per week as stated in the Employment Act based on certain exceptions.
IAC president Chan Seng Onn, a High Court judge, in a written decision stated that SBS Transit’s agreements with the NTWU were not in breach of the Employment Act.
The bus drivers argued that the IAC’s decision was based “solely” upon “samples of bus captains’ employment contracts and information provided by SBS Transit”, which the IAC had “extrapolated to all Bus Captains” as well as “the presentations by NTWU which held the position that SBS Transit’s practices were not in breach of the Employment Act”.
Hence, eight bus drivers have filed a judicial review application to the High Court to quash the IAC’s decision last month (16 Jan).
Bus drivers withdraw from National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU)
The recent lawsuit cases has sparked uproar among the bus drivers and now resulted in the withdrawal of some bus drivers from NTWU, which they claimed NTWU did not stand its ground to fight for members’ rights.
Just recently, TOC met up with a few bus drivers from different bus interchanges to hear from them about their opinions and personal experiences regarding their decision to withdraw from the union.
When asked about the reason for leaving NTWU, the bus drivers shared that the Union has not helped them in handling their problems and complaints.
A bus driver with six years of experience at SBS Transit said that whenever the drivers have any reports and complaints, NTWU is not there to solve their issues – this caused him to question the value of subscribing as a union member.
He said, “It’s a waste of paying $9 membership fee as we did not get any help from Union,” adding that even without the Union, drivers are still working as usual.
Another SBS Transit bus driver who had worked eight years with the company, even said, “Union for me nothing”. This is because the Union did not offer any help when he was involved in a vehicle accident and subsequent court case. He claimed that he had to make a police report alone and attend court proceedings without being accompanied by any officer from the Union.
Speaking on the eight-day work issue, the bus drivers also pointed out that NTWU has not helped to resolve this problem, but only followed the procedure made by SBS Transit.
Based on the employment contract that TOC was shown, the bus drivers are to work for six days and given a day of rest. But according to the bus drivers, they are made to work seven days and given a day of rest.
One of the bus drivers shared that he was just recently given a continuous 12-days work schedule by the company and questioned the safety aspect of such planning.
They cited what NTWU said, “This is right, you need to follow company’s terms”, which means for NTWU, the procedure and rules on working days set by SBS Transit are legit therefore the bus drivers should adhere to SBS rules.
“SBS like to amend things without informing drivers; even contract is not yet visually seen.” said a driver with five-years working experience with SBS. Citing examples such as working hour schedule being amended with invalid reasons and how their sick leaves affect their bonus.
At the same time, they feel disappointed because of the Union’s current involvement in a lawsuit. Noting the possibility of the Union standing with SBS Transit, the drivers further stated, “So Union not only act as third parties, it also serves as a portable sealed barrier to SBS, not to individual bus captain.”
One of the bus drivers also said that the drivers join to choose NTWU because NTWU is the only organisation to present themselves at the training course for bus drivers and many join out of peer pressure.
When questioned about the response of NTWU after learning of the bus drivers’ withdrawal, the interviewed bus drivers said that Union has engaged them and tried to persuade them not to quit the Union.
The union officers then will offer a lot of excuses not to sign the withdrawal letter and ask many questions and details about the driver’s withdrawal, said one of the drivers to TOC.
Those who are considering to leave the union — according to the interviewed bus drivers — they would be likely considered and suspected by union officers as part of advocates for drivers due to the controversy caused by the on-going lawsuit.
The bus drivers remarked that SBS Transit will be likely to be informed of the attempt to withdraw from the Union as one shared how his supervisor messaged him just a few hours after his application to withdraw from the Union, to have a talk about it.
Bus drivers — according to the interviewed bus drivers — worry that the company might try to create trouble to make drivers’ “life suffer” using multiple ways, such as reducing overtime paid, reducing day offs or assigning them to a “shit” duty roster.
Such concerns are particularly amplified, given that one of the five bus drivers in the first lawsuit, has been recently terminated by SBS Transit over disciplinary action.
Notwithstanding those challenges, the bus drivers expressed admiration for those who fight for drivers’ rights in order to improve the welfare of every individual driver.