Friday, November 30, 2012

Arrest of SMRT bus drivers for instigating a strike

The authority decides to charge 4 SMRT bus drivers for instigating an illegal strike involving an essential service.

The Chinese embassy in Singapore has expressed concern about the arrest action being taken against their nationals working in Singapore.

This is likely to lead to a diplomatic row that could turn quite ugly, if it is not being handled properly. Here are the issues at stake:

1) There is a law involving an illegal strike and disruption of essential public service, which the Singapore authority has to enforce.

2) The 4 "instigators" could feel that they are expressing their grievance over pay and working conditions and unfair discrimination.

3) It is possible that many of the foreign bus drivers could have paid a large sum of money to come and work in Singapore. They probably found the cost of living and the terms of employment to be unsatisfactory and they are now stuck with these terms, and they have no avenues to express their grievance.  Their government would probably be required to take their side to protect their "human rights".

4) This incident could probably put the employment and other practices in Singapore in an unfavorable light, especially the weak bargaining position of not only the foreign workers, but the local workers as well. It would also show some of the laws in Singapore to be unjust.

5) It is probable that the 4 "instigators were initially not aware about the law in Singapore and have not been advised. It might be possible that they were warned and they did not care anyway, as they have "nothing more to lose".

Whatever is the situation, it will be difficult for the Singapore authority to enforce the law harshly, considering the circumstances. A better way is for the authority to get the help of the Chinese embassy to solve this issue. A good outcome is for these 4 "instigators" to be let off and even allowed to return home with passage given by the government or their embassy. After that, we will have to review our practices and some laws that are perceived to be unjust.

Tan Kin Lian


C H Yak said...

Is "Minimum Wage" then a solution if the bus drivers are amongst the lowest paid and Singaporeans just ignore such jobs ?

The problem is still firms would still want to use "global market forces" to squeeze the labour market and worst by importing foreign labour...and discriminating pay between nationality, and to at least a certain degree exploiting the labour market.

And probably, the above could be why our Govt refuse to implement Minimum Wage System ...

I work in the construction industry half of my life and it had been this way since I first step into it. First exploit the Malaysians (and I heard even Korean prisoners), then the Thais, then the Indians, then the Bangla, then China pleasant workers, then the best combination of all of them, ... when a nation was developing and wages rising maybe it worked based on relative comparative advantage between nations ... but when a nation becomes developed and other nations also catched up, then with the labour market so globalised ... with HR practices failing to catch up and cost of living + inflation going up and up ... angers will flare.

In the construction industry, the exploitation even hits PMETs jobs , especially the lower rung ones.....we may give it a nicer term - marginalisation of jobs and wages... This is where it gets compounded as the "FT" issue. And next the the whole "value chain" also gets exploited ....

I would not be surprised that all would simply expect these drivers to get up regularly early every morning at 4am to start the work day, but the top management can take months to deliberate their $25 dollar annual wage increase ... while many of us still just want to get ourselves up at 7am to start work.

Imagine also the scenarios of the differences & implications of wanting to "import labour to exploit them" vs "going to another country to exploit their labour", something like Foxxcon.

Firms can exploit the "market forces" but as an independent "watchers" we should not judge with eyes to exploit. Perhaps only then can we get "fairer"...Our starred General at MOM said the line had been crossed...but this line could be so "thin" and even "grey" from the onstart when you import labour.

yujuan said...

Dissatisfaction of Chinese Nationals working in Singapore has been known some time already, even Mouthpiece had reported that weighing the high costs of living for the so called higher wages is almost comparable what they get back in China.
First, the skilled China workers and FTs have already left Singapore, now the lower class workers are the latest to leave. Now we are only attracting less qualified and less skilled workers, as compared to the 1990s.
It's strange our Govt and the Companies do not sense it, and still stick to old practices of exploitation of workers, with the CEOs preferring to pay themselves very well at their workers' expense.
Simply, SMRT and the Govt ask for it for being still in denial.
These 4 drivers knew they were breaking the laws, prepared to go back home, knowing the Chinese Embassy would intervene. They have nothing to lose, maybe except for receiving 1, 2, or 3 months jail, so what.
Just look around, the so called FTs are only half baked FTs making Singapore as a training ground for them to go West or return home later. No high quality FT from China, Taiwan or South Korea will step foot here.
Govt is stepping on a tight rope here, dun wan the strikers to make a precedent for other foreign workers to follow, leading to local workers to follow suit, and secondly have to show voters the LAW is applicable to both citizens and foreign Nationals, and most importantly have to gingerly handle the Chinese Govt's face.
Govt still in denial the instant tree approach dun work, as long as the practices and policies dun change. No wonder Shanmugan subtly hinted his Govt is made up of idiots.
Low wages and very high living costs in First world countries dun go hand in hand. People would revolt. Rip Van Winkle have to wake up fast. The highest paid Govt in the world and the obscenely paid CEOs can't have the whole cake and eat it as well, have to learn to share.

Kooli said...

In 2004-2006, I stay in PKU campus. I learnt their culture. Out of respect to the superpower, I do not wish to tell you too much here.

I just wish to tell you the Southen-Chinese and Northen-Chinese has each of their own sub-culture. Sometimes, they themselves have conflict over lifestyle in main-land China.

In regards to the drivers' complaint about bug, we need to observe personal hygeience.

Q1: How often the driver brush their teeth?
Q2: Each day, how many showers?
Q3: Each week, how many pair of uniform they use?
Q4: For dirty linean or uniform, how many days they keep?
Q5: After work, are they wear shoes and walk inside to bed room?
Q6: How often they clean their own bed room and bed? What is the method they use to clean?

C H Yak said...

" Younger workers now make up the majority of China's migrant labour force - and they are quicker to speak up than older workers when they feel their rights are being violated. This is according to a report by the country's official trade union, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions...."

Read this AP's article published in TODAY 23 Jun 2010 (abstracted in my blog)

"China's 'post '80s' workers stand up for their rights"...

When China new President Xi Jin Ping visited S'pore quite some time ago, our retired ESM Goh met him and they talked to set up a "cultural centre" at Queen Street. This is yet to be built but Xi has taken over power.

It shows how naive our PAP Govt could be ... they wanna "exchange" on culture just to do "business"...but do they really want to understand the Chinese culture to solve problems like this "strike"? LOL.

Look at the 4 charged ... they might be from the country-side (I am not sure) ... but their ages - 32, 32, 39 and 33 ... the commencement of those borned in the 1980s ...

Sometime, I see China is even more "democratic" than S'pore in certain ways... LOL ... our PAP leaders just do not or refused to understand this ... LOL.


"It characterised the younger generation - known as the "post-'80s generation'' - as more willing to file complaints when their rights are violated and less fearful of retaliation compared to the older generation of workers.

Younger migrant workers are also "more aware of equality and rights", and have higher expectations of getting equal jobs, labour and social welfare, education, and other basic public services. "

"Tactics and strategies for making complaints were also more sophisticated, the report said."

What says our muted NTUC ? "Please join us" ?????

Ghost said...

The simple fact of the matter is that the police should have never been called in. The SMRT and the workers had the situation well in hand. There was no public protest, nothing that even hinted of a protest, yet someone went and called in the police. If the police had not been called in, the matter could have been settled quietly and this situation would be over by now. I personally would like to know why the police were called in and who called them in. Nothing happened that needed their presence.

David Soh Poh Huat said...

Based on what has happened, my personal analysis is that nowadays the Management in most of our companies and even our civil service are not in touch with the ground.
In this case, if the Management is aware the problem would have been addressed and such 'strikes' would not have happened.
Gone are the days, Management staff are being promoted from rank and file and they understand the problems of lower level. Nowadays, the moment you have a degree or Masters you are being put on the pedestal not knowing what is happening at the ground level and refused to listen to feedback.
Maybe the TV serial UNDERCOVER BOSS should be made mandatory as a teaching tool for all organisation.

Att Cch said...

"A good outcome is for these 4 "instigators" to be let off and even allowed to return home with passage given by the government or their embassy."

I disagree. We did not bend over for the US and let Michael Fay off for breaking our law. We certainly must not do so now. Not if the PAP wants Singaporeans to believe that we have our sovereign rights and will brook no foreign interference in our domestic affairs. Do they have the moral fibre?

Lye Khuen Way said...

I agree with your observations and even your wish for the outcome.

Posted my comments in TREmertius.

I can agree with with your not-so-harsh punishment, because our "coverment" got itself into a corner with its eyes open. And with it's GLC, no less.

Am one who always clamour for more law & order, of the fair kind, so if were to declare that the 171 guest workers are heroes in my eyes, some eyes will blink non stop.

Well, we Singaporeans are so conditioned that we hardly know our human rights. What more to say.

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