SMRT bus drivers stage wage protest

SINGAPORE - Unhappy over the recent pay increase given to their Malaysian counterparts, 102 mainland Chinese SMRT bus drivers staged a sit-in yesterday morning.

They gathered beneath their dormitory in Woodlands and refused to go to work.

Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday that the mainland Chinese bus drivers demanded that they be given equal pay.

Among the protesters was Mr He, 40, who told Shin Min Daily News that they were unhappy because Malaysian drivers received a $275 increment and a month's bonus recently.

In contrast, Chinese nationals were given only an extra $75, without any bonus.

Mr He said that a few bus drivers gathered below the dormitory at 3.30am yesterday and persuaded other drivers not to go to work.

By 8am, a sizeable number of bus drivers in their uniforms had congregated, he said.

At about 9.30am, an SMRT human-resource (HR) executive and an SMRT staff member in charge of Woodlands Bus Interchange arrived to resolve the dispute.

However, when discussions came to a standstill, police officers in riot vans were called in to maintain order.

Afraid that they would be arrested for gathering illegally, the bus drivers eventually returned to their dormitory rooms.

The police told My Paper that they received a call about the protest at about 10am.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said its labour-relations officers were at the Woodlands dormitory to work with the drivers and SMRT on their dispute.

A MOM spokesman said talks between SMRT management and the workers began yesterday afternoon and ended in the evening.

"MOM takes the workers' actions very seriously. There are appropriate grievance-handling processes in place, and workers are advised to speak to their HR and management to discuss and resolve any employment-related issues amicably, rather than take matters into their own hands," the spokesman said.

An SMRT spokesman said that drivers who were not rostered to work yesterday were requested to work as a result of the no-show by the 102 drivers, who will return to work today.


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