Workers affected by bus industry revamp to get help
TRANSPORT chiefs said they would help workers who faced upheaval due to the upcoming overhaul to the bus industry, which unions believe would also lead to pay rises.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will allow more transport operators, including foreign ones, to bid to run bus services here.
About a fifth of routes will be tendered out to both major incumbents, SBS Transit and SMRT, and new operators in the next two years.
The rest will be gradually tendered out as contracts expire.
Contracts to run services will be offered every five years, with a possible two-year extension for good performance.
It will mean bus workers - from technicians and engineers to drivers - may have to change employers every five to seven years, based on whoever wins the bid.
But the LTA stressed that the job security and welfare of such workers would be a "key priority".
It has set up a tripartite workgroup, roping in operators and the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) to "ensure a smooth transition for affected staff".
The group is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Josephine Teo.
A key safeguard of the contracts requires incoming operators to make employment offers with terms and conditions no worse than what staff enjoyed under the incumbent, said the LTA.
In London and Perth, similar regulations are in place to protect transitioning employees.
SMRT, which operates about a third of the bus services here, told The Straits Times that regardless of the bidding outcome, there are "transition issues that will need to be worked out...so that the interests of affected staff will be looked after".
In a Facebook post yesterday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said: "We will see to it that the welfare and interests of bus workers are well taken care of."
Bus drivers told The Straits Times they did not expect to change jobs, even if they switched employers.
Said Mr Tan, a driver for 34 years: "As long as the pay, benefits and job scope are the same, I will stay at this job."
SBS Transit has more than 5,500 drivers, while SMRT has more than 2,100.
NTWU executive secretary Ong Chin Ang said the union would look into workers' "concerns and queries" and that it looks forward to "better jobs and wages".
The change could spell better pay for bus drivers amid a shrinking labour pool, said human resource expert David Leong of PeopleWorldWide. He said: "It's not just about getting people who can drive buses, but about people who are familiar with routes and can deliver good service."