SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement on Thursday that SMRT dormitory rooms were within allowed occupancy limits but had "below par" housekeeping conditions.
MOM revealed in the statement that its Housing Enforcement Branch officers visited the SMRT dormitory rooms where its China bus drivers are housed on Wednesday.
The ministry said the dormitory rooms were not overcrowded as they were within allowed occupancy limits.
Its officers also found bed bug problems in some of the rooms occupied by the SMRT drivers, adding that "occupants of each room are responsible for their own hygiene".
MOM also said its officers observed that rooms occupied by the SMRT drivers had "below par" general housekeeping conditions compared to other rooms in the dormitories.
They also noted that that many SMRT drivers had problems with room allocation; drivers on different shifts were placed in the same room, making it difficult for them to get a good rest.
The ministry said it shared the findings of the inspection with SMRT management on Thursday, and that the transport operator has indicated it would improve the bus drivers’ living conditions as soon as possible.
MOM said it has reiterated to SMRT that labour and contractual grievances raised by the workers should be a priority and addressed quickly.
It also called on SMRT to work more closely with the union to resolve outstanding issues.
Separately, SMRT held its first townhall session with its drivers from China on Thursday morning.
There was another session on Thursday afternoon.
The transport operator told its drivers at the sessions that it has set up a 24—hour hotline for drivers to call if they have concerns or grievances.
They have also appointed liaison officers who can speak Mandarin to deal directly with the drivers, said SMRT.
Drivers can approach these liaison officers in addition to their supervisors.
SMRT also assured its drivers that it would continue to work closely with dormitory operators to ensure dormitories are kept in good condition.
The transport operator also announced that it will arrange alternative accommodation for the drivers at various HDB flats located island—wide when the leases of their dormitories expire from early 2013.
This is in response to a large number of drivers expressing their desire to move out from their dormitories.
Channel NewsAsia understands that 400 bus drivers attended the townhall sessions.
SMRT said in a statement that it would continue to ensure their bus services operate normally, and that there are 45 bus drivers from SBS Transit and private operators on standby ready to be deployed to assist SMRT.
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