Monday, November 26, 2012

SMRT Strikes in Singapore


Singapore has been mostly strike-free for years. The last major strike came from the shipping industry in 1986. Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary-General of NTUC Ong Teng Cheong sanctioned it without informing the Cabinet. The issue was resolved within two days, but Deputy Prime Minister Ong’s actions angered certain Cabinet members. Since then, you do not hear about "Strikes" even though there are occurring in increasing frequency as they are mainly done by foreign workers.

Singapore makes going on "Strikes" a criminal offense. Have you heard about CLTPA?

Strikes and lock-outs in essential services — such as public transport services, broadcasting services and civil defense services — are covered under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. Workers in gas, electricity and water services are prohibited from striking, whilst others are not allowed to strike unless at least 14 days’ notice has been given, or while official conciliation proceedings are pending.

The Trade Disputes Act goes further, outlawing industrial action if:
a. it has any other object than the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the persons taking part in the industrial action are engaged;
b. it is in furtherance of a trade dispute of which an Industrial Arbitration Court has cognizance; or
c. it is designed or calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship on the community.

The penalty for participating in illegal industrial action can either come in the form of a fine of up to S$2,000 (approx. US$1,588) or imprisonment for a period of up to six months.

Singapore also has strict laws regarding protests and demonstrations, and all “cause-related activities” are governed under the Public Order Act. A single person can be considered to constitute an illegal assembly if he or she does not have a police permit to carry out the activity.

All these laws come together to make industrial action a difficult option. For the average worker, the possibility of trying to initiate a strike is slim. And although NTUC said in its advertorial that they have threatened strikes before, this may come as a surprise to Singaporean workers.

etc. < Read more here >

Singapore has adopted the model of tripartism, where the government steps in to intervene and mediate between employers and employees. The Tripartite partners of Singapore are the Ministry of Manpower, NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

With the head of the NTUC so close to the government, pretty much nothing in the interest of workers gets resolved. There are no minimum wage laws and there is much inflation while low income workers' salaries remained stagnant for the past 10 years. The influx of foreign workers pretty much caused the income disparity. There are increased record profits by many of these exploitation of workers in privatized services like, "Public Transportation", "Power Services", etc. The CEOs of these companies get record salaries while the workers' salaries are depressed.

The controlled media and the union (NTUC) does not seem to do much and paints a happy face while sweeping the problems under a carpet.

A group of 200 disgruntled Bangladeshi workers went on a seven-hour sit-out on Feb 6, 2012 morning in Singapore's largest residential area Tampines over a dispute involving unpaid salaries. Apparently, this is "not a strike" and as many people were not affected, nothing was heard much of it.

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SMRT workers refuse to go to work. -- The headlines is once again misleading from the government controlled main stream media.

Chinese bus drivers in Singapore in rare labor protest

"The drivers, employed by public transport operator SMRT Corp, were unhappy about having to switch to a six-day work-week with higher pay from a five-day week. The change meant less opportunity to earn overtime pay, the Chinese-language Lianhe Zaobao newspaper reported on its website."

I clearly believe that in this case, spokesman for SMRT declined to comment and the government media does not have any other information (or it is all blocked), is very bad for the public. People need to go to work and with the astronomical car prices, public transportation is a main form of transport.

There must be a clear message from SMRT and the LTA (Land Transport Authority) on the outcome
and what can the public do to get around it. This is definitely a crisis which they caused, and crisis communications and transparency is key to resolve this as fast as possible as the outcome affects the lives of millions in Singapore.

I just hope that at the end of this, the CEOs and executives do not get a FAT year end bonus while they raise prices on the public.

-- Iron Bowl

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