New bus operator Tower Transit offers higher starting wage, longer maternity leave

(From left) Tower Transit's CFO Andrew Bujtor, CEO Adam Leishman, and operations and transition manager Stuart Thomas at a press conference on Nov 12.
(From left) Tower Transit's CFO Andrew Bujtor, CEO Adam Leishman, and operations and transition manager Stuart Thomas at a press conference on Nov 12. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Tower Transit's $1,865 basic salary up to 15% more than those of SBS, SMRT bus captains

Singapore's third public bus operator, Tower Transit, announced yesterday that it will offer a starting basic wage of $1,865 a month to Singaporean bus captains.

The London-based company said that the monthly gross pay can go up to $3,000 with add-ons for meeting performance incentives, such as safe driving, and overtime of about 10 hours a week.

The basic pay offered by the newcomer is 5 to 15 per cent higher than that offered by the existing bus operators SBS Transit and SMRT. But Tower's total monthly package is similar to SBS Transit's.

Ms Tammy Tan, SBS Transit's senior vice-president for corporate communications, said its basic starting pay for a Singaporean bus captain is $1,775, but several allowances and incentives go into the gross pay. "Hence, together with overtime, new Singaporean bus captains can earn up to $3,000 a month," she added.

SMRT declined to reveal details of its employment contract, but an earlier report said its basic pay was $1,625, about 15 per cent less than Tower Transit.

Mr Adam Leishman, chief executive of Tower Transit, said its bus captains get "the best of both worlds", as annual increments are based on the Ministry of Manpower's wage index... At the same time, there are incentives so that drivers "share in the benefits of doing a good job".

Non-Singaporean bus captains at Tower Transit will get a starting basic pay of $1,350 a month.

Tower Transit, which won the rights to operate Singapore's first government bus contract in May, said yesterday that it has embarked on a "job redesign" to allow its captains to dispense with duties such as refuelling, cleaning and parking at the end of the each day.

It will offer female staff 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, more than the 16 weeks offered by most firms, and sponsor staff for Workforce Skills Qualifications courses, and even diploma and degree courses.

Tower Transit will gradually take over the running of 26 bus routes, called the Bulim package, from SBS Transit and SMRT from the middle of next year. This will affect close to 500 public transport workers employed by SBS and SMRT. Under tripartite guidelines, they have to be offered a job by Tower Transit on terms that are no worse-off than the ones they are currently on.

The employment terms unveiled yesterday were developed by Tower Transit in consultation with the National Transport Workers Union. Both signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday. The union said it was satisfied with the MOU but looks forward to having the terms recognised under a collective agreement.

In coming up with the terms, Tower Transit said it had also sought the opinions of the 500 affected workers, and also taken in feedback from 400 others who had expressed interest to join the firm.

Mr Adam Leishman, chief executive of Tower Transit, said its bus captains get "the best of both worlds", as annual increments are based on the Ministry of Manpower's wage index, which acts as an "insurance policy" so that drivers are not left behind if wage rates rise rapidly. At the same time, there are incentives so that drivers "share in the benefits of doing a good job", he noted.

A telematic system, or "black box", will be installed on Tower Transit's buses to monitor how well bus captains drive. They can earn up to $430 a month in incentives.

Mr Kalidass Savrimuthoo, 46, a senior bus captain who left SBS Transit after 19 years to join Tower Transit last month, said he received a 10 per cent pay raise. "I feel there are better prospects. Here, I get to do recruitment and interviews. But at SBS Transit, I just hold on to my wheel and drive," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline 'New public bus operator offers higher starting wage'. Print Edition | Subscribe