No-show by 60 SMRT bus drivers for 2nd day

The industrial dispute between public transport operator SMRT and its China-sourced bus drivers took a new turn on Tuesday when 60 of them continued to stay away from work.

SMRT confirmed that 60 drivers did not show up for work, "some of whom have valid medical reasons".

Police deployed officers to SMRT's rented dormitory for drivers in Woodlands in the morning. A police spokesman said its men were there to observe the situation; and that no one has been arrested.

He said the number of policemen on the ground is fewer than the 45 deployed on Monday, when 102 mainland Chinese drivers staged a sit-in at the Woodlands dormitory.

A bus ferrying members of SMRT's management arrived at the Woodlands dormitory at about 10.50am on Tuesday morning.

It was accompanied by a private ambulance, believed to have been engaged by the rail and bus operator to check on drivers who claimed they were sick.

Several workers, however, were seen rushing out from the dormitories later in the morning. This after they heard that their employment would be terminated if they are absent from work today.

The drivers were protesting over substantially better salaries that their Malaysian colleagues were getting. They also complained of the new six-day work week (from five), and living conditions in their dormitory.

The group dispersed at around 6pm on Monday, with most saying they would return to work on Tuesday. SMRT had said it was working with the Ministry of Manpower for a resolution to the dispute.

But apparently, no real resolution has been hammered out yet. The drivers who refused to return to work claimed that it was because the rail operator's offer of only a $25 increase in their monthly salary was still too low.