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What else should be done to protect our public transport workers? -
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Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

TL;DR – It all boils down to basic courtesy and respect, doesn’t it?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know about the recent cases where our bus captains were verbally abused, and some even physically assaulted by bus commuters.

Some of these incidents happened because the commuters were not happy that they were told to wear a mask – a rule which was made compulsory in Singapore on April 14 as part of Covid-19 safety regulations.

In response to these acts of violence, SBS Transit said in their statement that the public transport operator is prepared to support any of its staff members who wish to take civil action against individuals who inflict abuse against them.

Labour MP Melvin Yong, who is also the Executive-Secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) have also pledged to take a firm stance against such abusive acts against the public transport workers.

He said that while the public transport workers have received better protection under our legislative framework over the years, the union will continue to work closely with the authorities and the different public transport operators to examine what can be done to step up on deterrence measures to further protect the public transport workers.

In an opinion letter submitted to TODAY, writer Mr Francis Cheng Choon Fei gave some suggestions on what could protect the bus drivers.

Here’s what the writer suggested:

  • transport operators to upgrade their on-board surveillance systems that can relay instant videos to police. He explained that this can be done by installing an emergency button that, when activated, will transmit live images to police for a fast response
  • transport operators to install protective shields around drivers on their entire fleet
  • provide drivers with training on the de-escalation of conflicts and mental health awareness to help prepare drivers when they encounter such unpleasant incidents
  • employers and trade unions to step up their engagement with the authorities to help ensure that there is a coordinated and effective network of support and mechanisms designed to protect public transport workers
  • Government to beef up on penalties for assaulting and abusing drivers
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He concluded that it is only with the cooperation of all agencies to guarantee the safety and security of bus drivers that we can achieve a safe, efficient, and reliable public transport system.

In case you don’t already know, the idea of installing a plastic shield around the bus driver’s seat isn’t a new one. In fact, this is an idea which the NTWU has been already been exploring two years ago.

These protective screens were even being trialled in 2018.

However, the idea was eventually scrapped as drivers said the screens reflected light and affected driving.

Nonetheless, the NTWU is now revisiting the idea of installing plastic shields to better protect bus captains, said Labour MP Melvin Yong.

“In the light of the recent cases of bus captains being verbally abused or physically assaulted by commuters, NTWU is revisiting the idea of installing plastic shields to better protect bus captains – both in terms of virus and assault prevention.”

According to the Labour MP, NTWU will continue to work with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the PTOs (public transport operators) to study the various options available, as well as the implementation of these plastic shields in the buses.

While we agree that authorities and the public transport operators play an important role in protecting and safeguarding the public transport workers, however, if commuters who treat these workers badly and without respect don’t change their mindset, nothing is really going to change.

Because ultimately, it all boils down to basic courtesy and respect.

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Like everyone one else, transport workers deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect in their workplace.


Safeguarding our transport workers’ welfare: NTWU and the Bus Contracting Model

By Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!