SBS Transit Not in Breach of Employment Act: Court

The Industrial Arbitration Court finds no evidence to state that the terms of agreements between SBS Transit and the National Transport Workers' Union had breached the Employment Act.
By Ian Tan Hanhonn 13 Nov 2019
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Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) President Justice Chan Seng Onn issued a written judgement on 13 November 2019 stating that SBS Transit’s five collective agreements with the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) had not breached the Employment Act. 

The collective agreements were each signed in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2017. 

The ruling comes after SBS Transit made an application to the court to seek clarity on the interpretation of the collective agreements between the company and the union.

However, Justice Chan noted that the language used could have been clearer to avoid misinterpretation.

In his statement, he stated: “The court notes that the meaning of ‘hours of work’ or ‘working hours’ and the practice of ‘built-in overtime’ adopted by the employers and the union in structuring the work arrangements is different from that as defined or envisaged under the Employment Act.

“This can result in confusion when determining whether there has been compliance with the Employment Act. It can also lead to misunderstanding.”

Response to Ruling

Justice Chan also stated that it is up to SBS Transit and NTWU if they wish to review the collective agreements to adopt the same definitions as those found in the Employment Act.

In response to the ruling, NTWU Executive Secretary Melvin Yong stated that: “NTWU will continue to work closely with SBS Transit to ensure that the terms in our collective agreements remain competitive and are always beneficial to our members.

“We will continue to do our best, to serve the interests of our members,” he stated.

SBS Transit made the application to IAC following a lawsuit filed by five of the transport operator’s employees against them on 20 September 2019. The lawsuit alleged that SBS Transit underpaid the drivers for overtime hours and got them to work more than 44 hours a week.