Covid-19: SBS Transit & SMRT offer their taxi drivers jobs as bus captains & 'transport ambassadors'

Taxi drivers have seen demand 'fall significantly' because of fewer tourist arrivals and an increase in the number of people working from home.

Joshua Lee| March 23, 06:15 PM

SMRT and ComfortDelGro are offering their taxi drivers, faced with declining ridership and demand in the Covid-19 outbreak, an alternative job — as bus captains.

SMRT provides taxi and bus services under its SMRT Road Holdings group, while ComfortDelGro has in its stable of operations ComfortDelGro Taxi and SBS Transit.

S$3,000 sign-on bonus for ComforDelGro taxi drivers-turned-bus captains

Taxi drivers who wish to become bus drivers will have to go through training before they are deployed.

In its statement, ComfortDelGro said that is offering these taxi drivers a one-time sign-on bonus of S$3,000 which will be paid out in three tranches:

"The first tranche of S$500 will be given out when they complete their training at the Bus Captain Driving Centre, the second tranche of S$1,500 will be handed out in the first six months, and the remaining S$1,000 on their first work anniversary."

New taxi drivers-turn-bus captains will be paired with a mentor who will aid them in transiting into their new job.

To date, SBS Transit has 168 bus captains who used to be taxi drivers or private-hire drivers.

ComfortDelGro Managing Director and Group CEO, Yang Ban Seng said:

"These are difficult times. The focus of the day is survival. As a Group, we are very clear that we want to do all we can to help our people as things get progressively worse. Our cabbies may not be our staff but they are definitely one of us — people we have worked closely with for years and we want to ensure that they are looked after. Our message to them is stay with us, let’s try to ride this out together but if you really have to give up your taxi, think about being a bus captain. You are welcome there.”

Both companies will give interested taxi drivers the relevant training before they are deployed as bus captains.

Cabbys finding it difficult to make ends meet in current outbreak

Both companies announced on Monday (Mar. 23) that they will be providing short-term job options to taxi and point-to-point drivers in their companies.

ComfortDelGro, in a statement, said its taxi drivers have seen demand "fall significantly" due to fewer tourist arrivals and an increase in number of people working from home.

While the company, together with the government, has offered help in the form of rental rebates and one-time payments, ComfortDelGro's taxi drivers have seen a drastic drop in their incomes, said the company:

"Excluding rental rebates, the drop is as much as 42 per cent in net income and a smaller 22 per cent with the rebates. With the situation expected to persist, many are finding it difficult to make ends meet."

Similarly for SMRT, its taxi and limousine drivers have been adversely affected by the outbreak.

The company said it has been supporting its drivers through a multi-million dollar fund, as well as the waiver of taxi rental fees for those placed under quarantine.

It is also working with agencies to help its taxi and other point-to-point drivers reskill and find short-term jobs.

LTA to roll out Transport Ambassador scheme for transport workers affected by Covid-19

Earlier Monday (Mar. 23), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be rolling out a new temporary scheme for transport workers (including taxi drivers) affected by Covid-19.

This scheme, called "Transport Ambassadors", said Khaw, will involve these staff being deployed to help commuters keep safe distances from one another.

They will also support higher manpower needs at MRT stations — for instance, sanitising train cabins, seats, and poles more frequently — during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Depending on the length of the outbreak, these ambassadors might be placed on three-or six-month contracts.

The extra cash allowance accorded to them for filling these roles will help supplement their reduced income, said Khaw, adding that LTA will be working with transport operators to get this scheme running in the coming weeks.

"This is our own attempt to help one another, within the public transport sector, cope with the pandemic. Regulator, transport operators and unions working together, fighting a common enemy. I think in so doing, we will emerge stronger as one bonded community, one transport family," said Khaw.

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Top image by Joshua Lee.