Desmond Kuek, spoke on SMRT issues

It is good that WP has joined in to have a say in the SMRT drivers strike. It also called for fair treatment of workers and decent and living conditions. Apparently no one knew that the PRC workers were having problems in compensation and living in less than decent quarters. The fact that there were admissions to such allegations is proof that things have to be improved. This blind syndrome of seeing but not seeing is becoming a disease affecting Sinkies. It is the consequence of marginable and incremental changes that led to the acceptance of gross indecency without being noticed as the reference point is the last case. It is like earning a million bucks and getting a 5% increment of 50k is nothing without knowing that the starting point was a $50k base salary.

By now it is clear that the main issues to the labour dispute were pay and living conditions. The latter is easier to resolve as workers, especially captains, need to live in conditions befitting of a captain, not a labour camp or abode fit for foreign workers. Good that the SMRT management is looking into the matter now.

As for the compensation, it is not as simple as it looks like. Compensation has to take into account a whole lot of factors, qualification, experience, seniority, performance, allowances, benefits etc etc. And in this case there is another factor of nationality. It is frequently heard that Sinkies are paid much more than foreigners. This could be true and could be a myth. Sinkies too expect to be better rewarded as citizens of the country while foreigners, in this case, even deferred to the privileges of citizens. Only those foolish foreigners working here would think that they should be treated and paid equally as citizens, or even better, as they are here to help the citizens and to provide jobs for the citizens. Where did they get this crazy idea from?

From the numbers available in the papers, it seems that the PRC drivers were paid just as much as the Malaysian drivers but in different combinations. If this is so, then it is a failure on the management to explain the whole compensation package to the PRC drivers. Think communication. They could even offer them the choice of a Malaysian driver’s pay package without the allowances for accommodation and transportation. Are there other benefits that were provided and not computed or explained that were fair or unfair?

There is one very important factor that no one wants to look at and think that if not spoken, it is not there. This reminds me of the Ostrich School of Thought. Many of these workers secured the jobs after paying a hand or a leg to the employment agencies and needed an equitable income to repay the money often paid using borrowings. How would this play up in their minds as to how much they are getting on the job and the debt incurred? This cannot be dismissed off as a non issue. It is a very serious issue that would affect the job performance and mental stress of the drivers. Any driver that thinks he is getting a raw deal will not be giving his best and would end up as a potential problem to the company and even a danger to his passengers and anyone on the road. Management may ignore this, but it is part of the driver’s computation for a decent return for his labour.

There are also obvious differences in terms of employments between permanent employees and contract workers and cannot be simply used to exaggerate the difference as discrimination. The bottom line is that the total package must be equitable and fair to all parties but not necessarily the same. There are elements of just compensation for the job and fringe benefits due to other considerations, like seniority and performance and even cost of living.

In the case of cost of living, paying Sinkies a few dollars more is not positive discrimination as the cost of living is much higher than foreigners. Paying the Sinkies the same as foreigners is really underpaying Sinkies and that is perhaps the main reason why Sinkies are shunning from lower paying jobs. It needs a lot of money to live and survive in this first world city. There are family and social commitments and high cost of everything to pay for.

So, is the compensation package for the PRC drivers really lesser than those of Malaysian drivers and are there genuine and valid justifications for the difference that can be explained to the PRC drivers? If the package is fair, it is then only a matter of being transparent and making the PRC drivers see the fairness of the scheme. Short changing or exploitation of workers, local or foreign, can only work for a while. The truth would soon bear its weight on the culprits of bad HR practices. But don’t always blame the HR practitioners. Often it is top management decision and they were just carrying out the policies from the top. HR professionals should have the gumption to take on management for a fair deal before negotiating with the worker. In reality many would not be able to risk walking out on a job when there is a big mortgage to pay and a family to feed. Management decision is final.

Dumb and daft workers, ignorant and illiterate workers that would blindly accept unfair practices are a thing of the past. But can the management see it, with their super talented team? The reigning philosophy of the day is that workers must be cheaper, better and faster while top management must be paid millions and millions more. Desmond Kuek has been quoted to say this, ‘There are clearly managerial, structural, cultural and systemic issues that need addressing.’ From my experience, management tends to take HR issues for granted and often think they could get away until it is too late. And HR will become the sacrificial lamb.


Anonymous said...

Who is the owner of the dormitories?
Does he have any affiliations to a political party or SMRT?

Anonymous said...

Heard 10 drivers in a room and the housing allowance was $275 per driver. Each room thus costs $2,750 rent a month. What kind of room or how big is the room to cost so much? Cannot imagine a room of HDB size would cost $2750 to rent and could put in 10 people.

Matilah_Singapura said...

In Western Australia, Transperth bus drivers can earn around AUD 80k a year.

Tickets also cost AUD 4 for most trips...travel in the city area is free.

Sure you can pay the bus drivers a good wage. But for the company to stay in the black, the cost of travel will go up. And people will complain.

People complain when the drivers strike, and demand that the company address the collective demands -- better pay and conditions. This costs money.

Fares go up. People complain again.

So how?

Anonymous said...

For farks sake.
Singapore taxpayers already paid/subsidize these profitable bus companies $1.1 billion.

Instead of increasing fares.
How about decrease pay of top management and Board members.
It's not as if they have been earning their pay with such "deep seated problems."

How about reducing the dividends SMRT pays to its shareholders?

The said...

Desmond said "deep-seated issues within the firm's management...."

This conveniently passed the buck to Saw Phaik Phaik Phaik (slapping her face hard) Hwa. I actually agreed with Desmond Tai Chi as he has inherited these problems which have been stewing as long as we had all these "fallen talents".

Even factoring in the accommodation and transport allowance, the Chinese drivers are still paid marginally less than the Malaysians. It is amusing to see the value assigned to the accommodation creeping up over the days to close the gap in pay between the PRCs and Malaysians.

I have mentioned the 5th column before. We depend on bus and train drivers during mobilization to bring our soldiers back to camp. What will happen if they decide to strike or go slow?

I think the crux of the matter is that at the very top, the policy is wrong. We have gotten used to growth at all cost by depending on cheap foreign labour. We are no different from the sweat-shops of those commie and third world countries which we used to decry. The only difference is that our exploited cheap labour work in air-conditioned offices or buses, and hence little sweat.

Why do ministers and employers keep saying we cannot get Singaporeans to work in those industries facing shortage of workers? How about paying them market rate and see whether there is a shortage of workers. Pay bus drivers S$2,000 to S$3,000 a month and see if there is still a shortage of bus drivers (the Scandinavian drivers are paid US$2,000 to US$3,000 a month). Pay the cleaners $3,000 a month and tell me you cannot get Singaporean workers.

Anonymous said...

Seriously. While we are at it, let's pay our NS boys the full market rate for their time.

The Pigs don't want to subsidize Singaporeans.
But they expect Singaporeans to subsidize them.

Anonymous said...

duh, they should all be paid the same. if it's cheaper to hire foreigners then why would companies hire singaporeans?

read post on yawning bread : since it's cheaper to pay Malaysians/PRC, they would be given OT if any.

Anonymous said...

Pigs also subsidizing fallen students.

Anonymous said...

Most lucky person, Saw Phaik Hwa. Left when everything inside the pressure cooker bursts out. Now become other people's problems.

The new CEO hasn't earned his million dollar bonus now kenna clean shit first. Last shit cleaner was Lui Tuck Yew.

Anonymous said...

Desmond,another LKY functionary nothing more than that

Anonymous said...

It's highly amusing to hear pple rationalize tt these foreigners should be paid much less than Sporeans while here - becos it is more than what they get back in their own country.

Hulloooo, these pple are now living in Spore, where the cost of living is astronomical, not in China or Bangladesh or wherever - where the cost of living is much lower!!!

Does one really need an A in school to understand such basics? Soon, pple will need an A just to be allowed to clean floors!!!

And while these pple - managers, scholars etc - advancing these cock-eyed arguments may have gotten their jobs becos they scored in school, they are certainly failures at the workplace!!

Which then begs the question - Does one really need an A in maths in school to do a good job at work?

oldhorse42 said...

Singapore citizen paid more than foreign bus drivers justifiable because we have higher living costs.Then why are ang mo PMET being paid much higher than sinkie doing the same job?

Anonymous said...

Because white is right?

Anonymous said...

coz they were our colonial masters. ang mo tua kee.

Anonymous said...

Now surely this issue will result in fare increases and will be used as a reason for such increases if they adjust the salaries and provide better living quarters for these foreign drivers.

As the largest shareholder is again linked to the Government, the argument for shareholders to be paid a lower dividend instead of increasing fares is unlikely to succeed.

In red dot public transport or any public service provision like medical, education, housing etc is anything but public in name.

Anonymous said...

We give SMRT $1.1 billion dollars to buy new buses.
Now we have to pay higher fares so that they can pay fair wages to their drivers?

We subsidize SMRT or SMRT subsidize us?

SMRT management cannot take a pay cut?
SMRT shareholders cannot receive a dividend cut?

Sgcynic said...

"From the numbers available in the papers, it seems that the PRC drivers were paid just as much as the Malaysian drivers but in different combinations."

That's a crap excuse. Seems the Chinese drivers only got paid "different" combinations after the recent pay hike. Going by the above logic, their total renumeration was higher that their Malaysian counterparts before?

Anonymous said...

Acutally s bus drivers are worst off cos they need to pay CPF. Net pay is just almost similar to foreign bus drivers. The m bus drivers are paid way too good in comparison. No wonder they are staying in nice houses and drive nice cars in JB. S leaders are made in m?

Anonymous said...

Sinkies are not better treated by SMRT. Labor costs to SMRT are about the same for Sinkies and non-Sinkies.
SMRT has to pay about $475 foreign worker levy per foreign (PRC, etc) driver. SMRT does not need to pay levy for Sinkie drivers. That could mean before 2012, before recent adjustments, a Sinkie driver costs likely lesser than even a PRC driver.

NTUC were probably working for management not workers.

Anonymous said...

Of course it is compared to the cost of living in their country because their accomodation and transport, the 2 most expensive items in Singapore, is provided for. And they are only on 2 year contract, which means whatever they earn here, they can jolly well bring back to China to raise a family after 2 years. And if they are not cheaper than Singaporeans, why would we hire them? And looking at their calibre, good riddance, I am glad they are paid less, or else we are doing the Malaysians and SG drivers a grave injustice.

Anonymous said...

"And if they are not cheaper than Singaporeans why would we hire them?"

The favourite unrefutable reason that was always given was that few Singaporeans want to drive buses, so they had to recruit foreigners even though they may be more expensive. But they are only more expensive if the levy is taken into account. Now, who collects the levy?

One reason few Singaporeans want to drive buses is the relatively low salary compared to other jobs, though the Government, NTUC and bus operators think otherwise. They must have known by now that this reason is failing to convince Singaporeans, that is why the need to make such a big salary adjustment for bus drivers recently. Truth be told, salaries of similar vocations in the host countries of those foreigners may be catching up with us, as many have suspected.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain how the PRC drivers in SMRT create jobs for Sinkies? If govt do not allow SMRT to hire FT, SMRT will relocate to Vietnam or Bangla and Sinkies like Desmond Kuek will lose their jobs?

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