Friday 25 May 2012

Union explains SMRT's new pay framework for bus drivers

TODAY, 23 May 2012

Following media reports that some SMRT bus drivers are fretting that their new six-day work weeks would actually result in lower pay, the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) yesterday stressed that the salaries will go up. 

In a letter to the media, NTWU assistant executive secretary Choo Joon See also provided a breakdown of how much more the bus drivers would be earning under the new pay framework.

Last week, the SMRT announced that since the start of this month, it has increased the pay of its bus drivers. But it later emerged that the bus drivers have to work an additional day under the new pay framework.

Mr Choo reiterated that although the bus drivers now have to work six days a week, the number of working hours each day has been reduced from 8.8 to 7.3 hours. 

Hence, the total weekly working hours remain unchanged, he said. 

Previously, under a five-day-week framework, most bus drivers volunteer to work on the sixth day, during which they are paid an overtime rate of 1.5 times the normal day rate. 

Said Mr Choo: "The fear is that with a six-day week, their overtime for working on a day off will disappear. However, with shorter working hours every day under a six-day week, they now accumulate overtime every day instead of only on the sixth day."

Mr Choo said the union has "gone through the roster cycle and is assured there is no loss in overtime overall". He added: "In fact, with a higher basic wage, the overtime rate per hour will go up, further boosting their pay." 

He noted that six-day work weeks are a norm in the service industry and that SBS Transit bus drivers have always been on six-day week, as were bus drivers from TIBS and, later, the SMRT until this arrangement was changed to a five-day work week in 2006. 

"We hope more (drivers) will be more reassured," Mr Choo added. Communication sessions with drivers are ongoing.

SMRT bus drivers fear pay will fall due to longer work week
They say switch to six-day week may reduce OT sum
By Siau Ming En, The Straits Times, 22 May 2012

SMRT bus drivers have expressed concern that their take-home pay may fall - despite the company's announcement last week that their basic salaries will be raised.

This is because their working week is to be lengthened from five days to six, said those who spoke to The Straits Times on Monday.

They fear the move will reduce the amount they receive in overtime.

Those who chose to work a sixth day used to get 50 per cent extra. Now, however, they will simply receive the normal daily pay.

They are also worried that with plans for more buses and drivers in the pipeline, their opportunities for putting in overtime hours will be reduced.

'Most of us rely on the overtime pay to add on to our income,' said a 44-year-old bus driver who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim.

'Now, with more working days and possibly fewer working trips, we will not be able to receive the extra overtime pay.'

A 57-year-old bus driver, who wanted to be identified as Mr Chan, said: 'I would rather they stick with the original salary and let us continue with our five-day work week.'

However, the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) said that although the sixth day will now be paid at the normal rate, spreading the 44-hour week over more days will mean fewer daily working hours. This will provide more chances to earn overtime pay.

SMRT brought in the five-day working week in 2006.

It has explained that the changes are being made to attract more Singaporeans to the profession. Its spokesman added that they would help the firm to stay 'competitive with industry norms'.

The firm said meetings are being held with the bus drivers. These will involve SMRT presenting the changes in detail and providing opportunities for any clarifications to be made.

NTWU executive secretary Ong Ye Kung added that the proposal to alter the salaries and working days had been 'discussed at length between management and union leaders, who support it'.

'Both public transport operators have been in this line a long time. I trust that by now they understand that in bus driving, you should never fill all vacancies. Instead, leave some vacancies, so that there is always overtime for bus drivers. If for some reason new managers forget this, the union will remind them in very clear terms,' he said in response to the overtime concerns of the bus drivers.

He said that the union will continue to explain to bus drivers how the changes will help to improve their wages.

He added that working six days a week is a fairly standard arrangement in all service industries. SBS Transit is also on the same system.

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