20 SMRT bus drivers 'assisting' police

Foreign workers walk out of their dormitory in Singapore. Singapore Tuesday issued a warning to mainland Chinese bus drivers, who are staging the first strike in the city-state for more than 25 years, an act that could land them in prison

20 Chinese bus drivers are "assisting" police in the investigation into the strike held in Singapore earlier this week, transport operator SMRT said Wednesday.

Some bus drivers were spotted going in to the Police Cantonment Complex before noon Wednesday and were still there by late afternoon, local media reported.

According to SMRT, attendance of bus drivers was back to normal and bus services were running as scheduled.

An SMRT spokesperson said six bus drivers who did not turn up for work Wednesday had valid reasons for their absence.

Up to 171 SMRT bus drivers from mainland China refused to go to work on Monday, protesting the disparity in salary between them and Malaysian bus drivers.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin described the action as an "illegal strike" that was "unacceptable".

Pay issue

Addressing the issue of pay, SMRT said unlike "service leaders" from Malaysia who are employed on a permanent basis, the drivers from China are hired on two-year contracts that carry different terms of employment.
"While the starting pay for SLs from China is lower, the company provides for their accommodations and utilities as well as daily transport to their workplace," it said.

As part of SMRT’s ongoing salary review, in July 2012, all the drivers under permanent employment received an increment in their starting pay. A special increment was also given to the drivers from China even though such an increase is not in their contract, the company said.

Data released by SMRT showed that after October this year, basic salary of bus drivers from China stood at $1,075 against $1,400 of those from Malaysia.

Another round of salary adjustments was made in October 2012, and, similarly, an additional adjustment of $25 per month for the drivers from China was finalised last week. SMRT said it was then in the process of communicating the adjustment.

"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, accommodations and utilities, our remuneration packages for SLs from China and Malaysia are equitable," it said, providing the table below of pay packages.

Regarding complaints about the poor conditions in the Chinese drivers' dormitories, management assured the drivers during discussions on Monday that a review would be made and their concerns would be addressed, SMRT added.

SMRT executive vice president Teo Chew Hoon said: "There are lessons from this episode, including how we can better engage our SLs, and we will improve in this area. In the meantime, we are doing our utmost to make immediate improvements to their living conditions.

For majority of our Chinese SLs who are putting their best in their duties, I would like to reassure them that we continue to value their services.”

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