“You can resign and go to SBS,” the drivers were told
|Dr Vincent Wijeysingha|
On 8th August 2012, a group of SMRT drivers petitioned the Union Chief Lim Swee Say demanding reinstatement of their previous five day workweek and salary package. Their negotiations have reached a stalemate.
I spoke to three drivers from SMRT on the 25th of September and they tell the same story that they have taken a forced pay cut since May 2012. According to the drivers, the Secretary General and Executive Committee of NTUC agreed with SMRT Management to accept the unfavourable proposal. Under the new scheme, the drivers said that they have been taking home about $400 – $500 less each month. It is estimated that each driver will lose in excess of $3500 in earnings from May to December 2012.
All their attempts to negotiate a fair wage have come to a naught. The drivers have also petitioned the Prime Minister, who then referred the drivers to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The MOM in turn referred them to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), only for LTA to bounce this matter back to MOM. After six weeks, they are back to where they started – MOM has referred this back to NTUC.
SMRT must take steps to ensure that such severe breakdowns in labour relations should not happen again. We all know that there are statutory requirements that companies need to fulfil and these are expected of all companies but there are also many non-statutory practices which frankly any good company should fulfil as well and this includes how you manage your staff, employees, how you engage them and how you look after them, looking after their welfare and this includes both local and foreign employees and frankly it is common sense, companies are expected to do that.
The issue is really why did this happen? Why was it allowed to fester? We do understand that the channels of communication are there. So the question is, did it filter upwards? Did it not filter upwards? And why not? And those are things we have to examine."
Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.