SINGAPORE - SMRT reckons that the remuneration of its bus drivers from China is "equitable" to those from Malaysia, and should be viewed alongside the benefits provided in the package of the former.
As most of the bus drivers who went on strike on Monday returned to work yesterday, the public transport operator said that it would resolve problems relating to the accommodation of its China drivers as soon as possible.
In a statement yesterday, SMRT said that unlike its bus drivers from Malaysia who are employed on a permanent basis, the drivers from China are hired on two-year contracts, which carry different terms of employment.
Though their starting pay is lower, the company said, they are provided accommodation, utilities and daily transport to their workplace.
SMRT said that when it increased the starting salaries for all drivers under permanent employment in July 2012 as part of its salary review, a special increment was given to the drivers from China, even though this was not in their contract. Just last week, it had decided on an additional adjustment of $25 per month for drivers from China, in line with another round of salary adjustments for drivers under permanent employment that was made in October this year, and it was in the process of communicating this, the company said.
"SMRT pays competitive market wages. Labour markets and wages vary in different countries. Taking into account the foreign worker levy and the provision of transport, accommodation and utilities, our remuneration packages for drivers from China and Malaysia are equitable."
The company said that the rate of attendance of its Chinese drivers was back to normal, and all its bus services were running as scheduled. However, not all of its China drivers were at work yesterday.
SMRT said that it was investigating the matter of six of its Chinese bus drivers not reporting for duty.
It later told BT that the six were absent with valid medical reasons.
SMRT also said that 20 of its Chinese bus drivers were away assisting the police in their investigation into possible breaches of the law as a result of the strike, along with other SMRT personnel who were helping the police with the probe.
A total of 171 bus drivers from China had gone on strike on Monday because of discontentment over their salaries and living conditions.
SMRT acknowledged yesterday that it could have reacted more swiftly to deal with the drivers' complaints about their living conditions, such as bed bugs at the dormitories provided by private operators.
It noted that while fumigation works were scheduled at the Woodlands dormitory, these had not been carried out yet.
"We will implement fumigation as soon as possible, and other improvement measures such as remedial works on fittings are already underway. We have also decided to provide alternative accommodation when the leases at the dormitories expire from early 2013."
The management had assured the drivers during a discussion on Monday that it would review and address their concerns, and a decision will be made known to them next week.
The company will be looking at further action, if any, pending the outcome of the police investigation, an SMRT spokeswoman told BT. Currently, the drivers are still employed by SMRT.
If found guilty of carrying out an illegal strike in essential services, the drivers could face a jail sentence of up to 12 months and fined up to $2,000.