Court dismisses claims by ex-driver who sued SBS Transit over rest days and overtime pay

Mr Chua Qwong Meng, who worked for SBS from April 2017 to February 2020, had raised a raft of allegations in his suit. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A former SBS Transit (SBS) bus driver who sued the public transport operator over rest days and overtime pay had all his claims dismissed by the High Court on Friday (Aug 26).

Mr Chua Qwong Meng, who worked for SBS from April 2017 to February 2020, had raised a raft of allegations in his suit, which was heard as a test case in a fight involving 12 other drivers.

The workers had filed separate suits in the State Courts. But in June last year, Justice Audrey Lim granted Mr Chua's request to transfer the test case to the High Court as the issues raised would affect a larger class of workers.

The court's decision and findings on Mr Chua's suit will be binding on all the plaintiffs.

Mr Chua claimed that SBS had breached the Employment Act by requiring him to work seven consecutive days before giving him a rest day, and that his rest day should be on a Sunday.

He alleged that SBS had underpaid him for overtime work by using the wrong method of calculation.

He also claimed that he was made to work more than the legal limit of 72 hours of overtime a month on multiple occasions.

On Friday, in a 59-page written judgment, Justice Lim rejected Mr Chua's contention that he should have been rostered the same rest day every week, that is, after working six days, he would rest on the seventh day, with the cycle repeated each week.

Justice Lim held that the Act permits an employer to schedule a rest day on any day of the week, which can be a different day each week and not necessarily a Sunday.

The Act states that an employee is allowed a rest day each week which shall be a Sunday "or such other day as the employer may determine from time to time".

The judge rejected Mr Chua's interpretation that the phrase "from time to time" meant an employer is permitted to schedule a rest day that is not a Sunday only "occasionally, but not regularly".

Mr Chua had also claimed that he was asked to work on his rest day "all the time" and was issued disciplinary notices if he refused.

But Justice Lim said the notices showed that SBS had taken disciplinary action against him for absenting himself on days he was scheduled to work.

After reviewing the documents, she was satisfied that SBS had properly computed Mr Chua's pay for working on rest days, and that the sums were accurately recorded in his payslip.

Turning to overtime pay, the judge noted that Mr Chua was paid twice his basic rate of pay for working overtime on a rest day or public holiday, which was higher than the minimum rate of 1.5 under the Act.

Mr Chua claimed that he worked more overtime hours than SBS' records showed.

But Justice Lim said this was without merit - Mr Chua's own calculations had inflated the hours worked by including break times.

Having perused the bus crew attendance lists, payslips and time cards, the judge was satisfied that SBS' figures were accurate and that Mr Chua was properly compensated for the hours he had worked, including overtime.

As for Mr Chua's claim of working more than 72 hours of overtime a month, Justice Lim said the bus crew attendance lists showed that he did not work more than 72 hours each month between January 2018 and April 2019.

She noted that the head of SBS' scheduling department attested that any attempt to change a bus driver's schedule that brings the total overtime to above 72 hours a month would trigger the system to issue a notification to the staff.

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