Want to be a bus captain? Think twice. Actually, think thrice.

 

I passed out from SMRT training school and started working as a bus captain on 20th October last year. Barely a month into the job I was already contemplating quitting after being paid a pro-rated quantum of my annual wage supplement (AWS). Back then I was assigned service no.965, a route which involved ferrying passengers between Woodlands and Sengkang bus interchanges. Each off-peak hour trip must be completed within 119 min, whilst around 130 min is designated for each peak hour trip. Suffice to say, this frenetic pace of affairs day in day out leaves one extremely exhausted.

 

Only a 10-minute layover was granted: after passengers have alighted at the interchange and the bus gets parked, it's checking in at the time keeper's office followed by a quick toilet break.....then you gotta tap out once more prior to departure, collect bus keys and commence the next trip shortly. As far as meals were concerned we had to gobble down our food in under 35 minutes.

 

One thing that severely pissed me off was the $6k joining bonus. The amount awarded to moi suffered a 50% haircut ( yes I collected just $3k!!!!!), on top of this I had to be bonded for 2 years. Reason proferred? Owing to a headcount freeze, LTA wouldn't pay out the remaining $3k. Yet when I signed my appointment letter, SMRT had the gall to continue advertising the $6k joining bonus. Badgered HR personnel, they simply shoved me aside. And then the final confirmation arrived: $3k it was, not a cent more. Fyi, I graduated as part of the 31st batch; folks from the 30th batch had 6000 reasons to smile because they were among the last to be fully compensated. Lucky bastards.

 

Rewinding things even further, I also did a stint at SBS Transit's operations control centre (OCC) in 2013. Cushy and relaxed it ain't despite working in an air-conditioned environment; we were required to monitor all bus arrivals and departures, handle incident reports, as well as deliver clear standing instructions to bus captains on duty. Lunch or dinner was typically fare purchased from the canteen and consumed on the control centre premises. Imagine getting interrupted by a F2 priority situation whilst eating; its pretty much adios makan and hello pick up the damn call asap to assist some bus captain in distress. Enduring high stress levels aside, the pay is pretty pathetic (you get to take home $1800 after CPF deduction). Is it therefore any surprise the OCC experiences historically high turnover rates?

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