Competition may lead to bus-driver pay tweak

A SMRT bus with the new colours (right) and one with the old ones at Choa Chu Kang bus interchange on Jan 21, 2014.
A SMRT bus with the new colours (right) and one with the old ones at Choa Chu Kang bus interchange on Jan 21, 2014.PHOTO: ST FILE

SMRT is considering tweaking the pay structure for its bus captains to be competitive with other companies. The starting pay for an entry- level Singapore bus driver is currently $1,625, potentially rising to a gross pay of around $3,000 with bonuses and incentives.

In comparison, rival SBS Transit offers a starting wage of $1,775, while Go-Ahead and Tower Transit, the new operators under the government contracting model, offer $1,865.

But reports say with bonuses factored in, the total salary packages amount to around $3,000 across the board for new drivers.

SMRT's vice-president for human resources Gerard Koh said yesterday the difference between a higher basic salary and higher incentives is not the final number but certainty in what one earns.

"We are watching to see whether our current structure will attract a fair number of bus captains. There may be some restructuring of the basic pay versus incentives to keep competitive," he said.

He noted that SMRT may possibly increase its basic salary of $1,625 by a "double-digit" amount.

Yesterday, the company said it aimed to add 500 employees, the bulk of them bus captains.

It also will give senior drivers two to three more days of annual leave, up from 14 to 18 days currently. SMRT plans to build an in-house clinic at one of the bus depots to enhance medical care.

The competition for bus captains among operators is becoming more intense with the entrance of Go-Ahead and Tower Transit, which are dangling bonuses to experienced drivers to get them to join their ranks.

More than 180 SMRT bus captains are affected by the taking over of bus routes by Tower Transit. Under tripartite terms, these drivers can choose to stay with SMRT or sign on with the new operator on equivalent or better terms.

Mr Koh said about 30 per cent of the affected drivers have chosen to remain with SMRT. "The gross is the same, and with all these new (schemes) we are introducing, they said, 'hey, not bad'."

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Competition may lead to bus-driver pay tweak'. Print Edition | Subscribe