Bus driver was 'trying to do his job': SBS Transit defends employee verbally abused by man with neck gaiter

Three incidents of bus drivers being harassed in the past week.

Ashley Tan | August 20, 2020, 06:31 PM

SBS Transit has come to the defence of one of its drivers involved in a dispute with a commuter wearing a neck gaiter.

Tammy Tan, Senior Vice President of SBS Transit's Corporate Communications said in response to Mothership's queries that SBS Transit "take[s] these acts of harassment against our Bus Captains seriously as they are frontline workers providing an essential service."

It is mandatory to wear a mask and use it correctly on public transport, Tan stated, and all bus drivers have a duty to ensure commuters don masks and wear them properly.

What happened

On Aug. 19, a bus driver denied entry to a man wearing a neck gaiter instead of a face mask.

The man filmed his entire exchange with the driver on Facebook Live, and used abusive terms such as "a**hole" and "b*stard" on the driver.

He also claimed that the driver's actions were racially motivated, and repeated the refrain that the company had hired a "China man".

The man also rejected a passenger's offer of a mask.

Police that arrived at the scene subsequently accepted his gaiter as a mask, according to the man's comment on the live video.

They told Mothership that they were alerted to a case of intentional harassment against a public service worker and public nuisance along Nicoll Highway on Aug. 16 at around 6pm. Police investigations are ongoing.

Tan said in her statement that the bus driver in this incident was unsure if the gaiter qualified as a mask, and had to seek clarification from the Operations Control Centre.

"He was trying to do his job but was unfortunately ridiculed by the commuter who not only filmed him but also made disparaging comments," she said.

Two other incidents

Tan also told Mothership that this is not the first time that bus drivers encounter commuters who are not cooperative.

She elaborated on two more recent incidents where drivers faced abuse from commuters who refused to wear their masks properly onboard.

Passenger grabbed bus driver by the shirt in another incident on Aug. 20 morning

There were two other incidents where drivers were harassed and abused by commuters over the appropriate wearing of masks occurred in the past week as well.

Tan revealed that one incident occurred on the morning of Aug. 20, when the driver advised a commuter whose mask was not covering his nose to put it on properly.

However, the man then started conversing with another commuter and pulled down his mask to even expose his mouth.

The driver once again advised him to put on his mask and was subsequently scolded by the man.

The man then alighted the bus, and boarded it again from the front. He confronted the driver and grabbed his shirt, causing some of the buttons to become undone.

According to Tan, the police is investigating this incident as well, and SBS Transit is assisting by sharing the CCTV footage with them.

Driver was spat on

Tan shared that a third incident happened last week.

Below is presumably the incident that took place when an argument erupted after a driver asked a commuter to wear his mask properly.

The commuter, in this case, spewed profanities, pointed his middle finger and spat at the driver twice after the driver called the Operations Control Centre.

He also told the bus driver: "Believe it or not, I will make you lose your rice bowl."

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