Sunday, April 01, 2012

Union seeks higher pay for bus drivers

SINGAPORE: Singaporean bus drivers may soon bring home a bigger pay packet.

National Transport Workers' Union is pushing for their starting basic salary to be raised to at least S$1,500.

The union also wants drivers to get more allowances and existing drivers be given higher salaries.

Sharing details with Channel NewsAsia, its executive secretary Ong Ye Kung said the move is necessary to attract and retain manpower to run the 800 buses, that will be added over five years.

"You want to recruit in such big numbers in a short time, wages got to go up, allowances got to go up," Mr Ong said.

"You want to attract another group, and cross their mental threshold, you got to cross S$1,500 as a starting basic salary."

Many Singaporeans are not keen to be bus drivers.

Worries over career progression and long hours are just some common feedback.

Still, 54-year-old Elizabeth Lim is one driver who has been working for the last 30 years.

"If you are good in your performance, you can be promoted to be a trainer, you can be a service leader, you can be a service mentor. If they increase the basic salary, Singaporeans will come," Madam Lim said.

Currently, Singaporean drivers are generally paid higher than those from Malaysia or China.

The starting basic salary for Singaporean drivers with SBS Transit is S$1,375.

Those with SMRT earn S$1,200.

Channel NewsAsia understands SMRT has recently agreed to match the starting pay of its drivers to those of SBS Transit.

Sources said the collective agreement for this, will be signed soon.

So the new Singaporean drivers from both operators may soon have the same starting pay of S$1,375.

But the union feels an even higher salary is necessary to attract the 1,000 drivers needed for the 800 new buses.

The union said wages for existing drivers must rise in order to retain them.

Mr Ong said: "If you are bringing in a new bus driver, with a basic salary of S$1500, we have to ensure all existing bus drivers who are earning below S$1,500 will have their pay adjusted to at least S$1,500 and maybe even given some increment for their seniority.

"And I think that is a very reasonable transition process. When you review salary, this is something that you need to go through, but we also understand that this becomes a union position -- which I think is a fair position -- but it comes at a fairly heavy cost to the company.

Mr Ong said talks with operators on this issue, are still in the early stages.

Much depends on the cost savings that operators can reap from the recent tweaks to bus financing and the move to allow them to retain a portion of advertising revenue from bus shelters.

The first rollout of the new buses will start from September this year.

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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