#ridersfordrivers is a solidarity campaign to crowdfund legal costs and financial aid for 13 bus drivers who are taking SBS Transit to court, as they believe that they have been underpaid and overworked for years, in violation of their contracts and the Employment Act.
The case asks important questions, like how many consecutive days workers can be made to work without rest, whether overtime can be mandated, and how overtime pay is calculated. Crucially, it also asks if the Employment Act allows for some labour protections to be overridden in the case of essential workers.
The drivers have been on a long journey looking for answers. They first approached the Ministry of Manpower, the National Transport Workers Union, and other associations for help. They’ve undergone negotiations, mediation attempts and arbitration processes with SBS Transit, but their questions have remained unanswered. SBS Transit claims that they have treated the workers fairly and met their obligations under the Employment Act, but the drivers insist that things don’t add up.
The issues the drivers have raised affect not only the 13 of them, or the thousands of bus drivers who work for SBS, but all workers in Singapore. For this reason, the case was transferred from the State Court to the High Court, after Justice Audrey Lim deemed it an important “test case”.
13 bus drivers are suing SBS Transit for alleged unfair work practices, including being underpaid for overtime work, built-in overtime in their contracts and scheduling 12 days of work in a row. Our campaign video tells the story of how these 13 drivers – 3 Singaporeans and 10 Malaysians – have stuck together through 2.5 years of battling against the odds. As ordinary workers, they’ve faced many challenges trying to understand their rights and navigate the legal system. It has taken a toll on their physical and mental health, but they and their families remain steadfast in the pursuit of justice.
Almost all the drivers have been terminated by SBS Transit. The Malaysian workers have all had to return home after their work permits were not renewed, but they’re still doing everything they can to support the case from across the border. Through health crises, pandemic disruptions and extreme financial hardship, the workers’ friendship, determination and care for each other has not waned. They check in on each other, offer encouragement, part-time work lobangs and any other form of support they can, so that the team’s morale doesn’t fade.
The workers and their lawyers are in the final stretch now, with trial dates set for 23-25 November 2021. They remain hopeful that the High Court can provide the answers they have been looking for, but as they prepare to go up against SBS Transit’s team of very powerful lawyers, the drivers’ legal team – helmed by human rights lawyer M Ravi – needs resources to build the best case they can. They incur various costs such as filing and disbursement fees, which the drivers have not been able to pay for, given their circumstances. There is a lot at stake, and a lot of work to do, and the drivers are seeking to raise $90,0000 to cover legal costs and a further $20,000 in mutual aid for those among them who are facing the greatest financial precarity.
It is rare in Singapore – where collective bargaining rights are hugely curtailed – for workers to take on their employer. Regardless of the outcome, this case will make a mark in history for the drivers’ doggedness in standing up for themselves and for all workers. It is also an important example of how local workers and migrant workers can stand in solidarity with one another.
But they can’t do this alone. Before the trial starts on 23 November, they need to raise $110,000.
So will you join us and #giveunclesbusfare? And invite your co-workers, friends, family and neighbours to give their bus fare also!
[If you can afford, of course can give cab fare / airfare also lah hor 😊]
Go to tinyurl.com/ridersfordrivers to contribute! To find out more about the uncles’ journey, check out the campaign video here:
Use the hashtags #ridersfordrivers and #giveunclesbusfare when talking about this crowdfunding campaign online, or sharing campaign material like the video and explainers.