New lawyer for bus drivers tells court they are continuing with lawsuit against SBS Transit

SINGAPORE – Lawyer Lim Tean, who has taken over the case of 13 bus drivers suing SBS Transit over overtime pay, told the High Court on Monday (Nov 29) that his clients intend to continue with the legal action.

This comes a week after a dramatic hearing last Monday on what was to be the first day of trial, when the drivers’ former lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, accused Justice Audrey Lim of being biased and asked her to recuse herself.

Mr Ravi also called the transport operator’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, a “clown”, and said that he and his client, Mr Chua Qwong Meng, would be “discharging” themselves.

Mr Chua, 62, is the lead plaintiff, whose suit is being heard as a test case. The court’s decision and findings will be binding on the others.

He issued a statement last Tuesday, saying that the drivers were “very embarrassed” by Mr Ravi’s behaviour and have discharged him as their lawyer.

On Monday, Mr Lim told Justice Lim: “It was never Mr Chua’s intention to apply for your honour to recuse yourself. What happened last Monday struck Mr Chua like a thunderbolt.”

Mr Lim said he was contacted last Wednesday and agreed to represent Mr Chua.

He confirmed that Mr Chua intended to continue the legal action with Justice Lim hearing the case and said what was stated by Mr Ravi in court last Monday was “totally without (Mr Chua’s) instructions”.

Justice Lim adjourned the case for a pre-trial conference in December.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Mr Chua said he has lodged a complaint to the Law Society and has also made a police report against Mr Ravi.

Mr Chua said he spoke to a few lawyers last Tuesday – two in person and three or four over the phone – but none wanted to take up the case.

A friend then put him in touch with Mr Lim, he said.

Mr Chua and the other plaintiffs filed lawsuits in 2019 and last year against SBS Transit, contending that they had been made to work without a rest day each week and that they were underpaid for overtime work.

In June, Justice Lim said the case involved important questions of law that would affect a larger class of workers in Singapore, and allowed the drivers’ application for the case to be heard in the High Court.

The questions involve the interpretation of provisions in the Employment Act relating to whether a rest day can be scheduled such that an employee can be made to work for 12 consecutive days over a 14-day period, and whether bus drivers fall within the definition of employees providing “essential services”.

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