SMRT on dorm conditions: We could have done better

UPDATED 10:35pm 29 November 2012. Adds latest statements by MOM and SMRT

SMRT management met with more than 130 bus drivers from China in two town hall sessions Thursday afternoon and shared plans to address the workers' concerns.

SMRT has acknowledged the poor living conditions at bus drivers' dorms in Woodlands and said it was taking swift action to improve them.

In a statement issued by SMRT on Thursday evening, the transport operator said measures being taken include repairs to defects and remedial works on broken fittings in affected rooms. It is also arranging fumigation to deal with complaints of bed bugs in some rooms.

As many of the drivers have said they want to move out from the dormitories, SMRT said it will be making alternative accommodation for them at various HDB flats and apartments when the leases of the dormitories expire from early 2013.

The living conditions at the dormitories are one of the main reasons why 171 bus drivers from mainland China went on strike earlier this week. The other reason was the perceived unfairness over pay compared to other foreign bus drivers from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower disclosed findings of its inspection of the drivers' dormitories on Wednesday.

In a statement Thursday night, the ministry said the general housekeeping conditions of the rooms were below par and bed bug problems were observed in some rooms.

However, it found that the number of occupants in all the SMRT dormitory rooms is kept within the allowed occupancy limit and that they are not overcrowded.

The bus drivers had shared feedback about the living conditions at their dormitories [Woodlands Dormitory and Central Staff Apartments (Serangoon)]. MOM’s Housing Enforcement Branch officers visited the dormitories on Wednesday (28 Nov).

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

However, SMRT insisted its remuneration package for its drivers from China was competitive and took into account the foreign worker levy and provision of transport, accomodation and utilities.

In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore earlier this week, a female bus driver from China who declined to be named had highlighted the poor living conditions.

"They may say that we are given accommodation, but have you seen the accommodation they give us? It isn't fit for humans," she said in Mandarin. "Eight of us share a room, and there isn't any walking space between our beds. I've also been bitten by rats and insects on multiple occasions before."

Nonetheless, she said all that is still bearable compared to the disparity in pay they receive for their work.

"This really is unfair to us. We do the exact same work, work for the same number of hours and yet we don't receive the same compensation. Our living conditions back home are far, far better than they are here."

Related articles:
20 bus drivers 'assisting' police
SMRT bus drivers' strike illegal: Tan Chuan-Jin
Singapore police stand guard as SMRT bus drivers halt work
Chinese bus drivers stage work stoppage in Singapore
Controversy arises over SMRT bus drivers' new six-day work week
SBS to raise S'porean bus drivers' salaries by 16%

  • Lincoln MKX Concept lands in China, dreams of America 8 minutes ago
    Lincoln MKX Concept lands in China, dreams of America

    As important as China has become in the global auto industry, it's pull has been entirely that of a consumer rather than a builder. Chinese buyers now purchase more new vehicles a year than Americans, but there's not yet been a move by any major automaker to sell Americans mass-market vehicles made in China.

  • April 21: GM assembles its 100 millionth U.S.-built car on this date in 1967 1 hour 24 minutes ago
    April 21: GM assembles its 100 millionth U.S.-built car on this date in 1967

    Few companies ever reach the dominance that General Motors held on this date in 1967 when it marked the 100 millionth car it had built in the United States at the Janesville, Wis., plant. That year, GM employed some 740,000 people, and was not just the largest automaker in the world but the largest company period. Its market share of the U.S. auto industry was more than 50 percent. Today, the blue Chevy Caprice coupe resides in GM's museum in Flint, Mich.; and while GM still ranks among the world's largest automakers, 1967 was a peak of sorts. Had GM's profits kept pace with inflation since then, it would have made $13 billion last year instead of $3 billion — although its hard to top the year Chevy introduced the Camaro:

  • Monday #sgroundup: 19 Singaporean passengers hospitalised as Malaysia bus plunges into ravine 4 hours ago
    Monday #sgroundup: 19 Singaporean passengers hospitalised as Malaysia bus plunges into ravine

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them. 19 Singaporean passengers hospitalised as Malaysia bus plunges into ravine A passenger bus plunged into a ravine after leaving a Malaysian island resort, killing a British man and injuring … Continue reading →

  • Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst
    Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysia Airlines flight heading to India with 166 people aboard made an emergency landing in Kuala Lumpur early Monday after it was forced to turn back when a tire burst upon takeoff, the airline said.

  • 5 Unanswered Questions About Jesus
    5 Unanswered Questions About Jesus

    As Christians worldwide gather for Easter to celebrate their belief in the death and rebirth of Jesus, researchers continue to delve into the mysteries that surround the man. The following are five questions about Jesus that, for now, at least, remain unanswered. In 2008, astronomer Dave Reneke argued that the Star of Bethlehem (a celestial event long associated with Jesus' birth) may have been Venus and Jupiter coming together to form a bright light in the sky. Other researchers have claimed that a similar conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter occurred in October of 7 B.C. Still others have claimed that Jesus was born in the spring, based on stories about shepherds watching over their flocks in fields on the night of Jesus' birth — something they would have done in the spring, not the winter.