The right to strike?
by an Undercover Economist
Are protests and strikes the best way to do things? Today, we have a small sample of what this could be like. A group of 100+ contract drivers have come together to strike regarding their displeasure regarding pay discrimination between them, Malaysian, PR and local drivers (see next letter for details).
Striking has been the bane of the government since day one. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew dealt with this early in the country’s history to drive the cautionary nail painfully deep. The position this country made was that we will preserve peace and if there is unhappiness, unfairness or bullying involved, these should be taken offline and battled behind the closed doors of offices and courtrooms. Industrial action cripples the rest of society and in the long run, innocent businesses that bring good jobs and good pay will become reluctant to setup shop here. The effects will then snowball to future generations of Singaporeans.
If this was a full on strike, you’ll have to find alternative means of going home tonight, with no guarantee that it will continue again tomorrow.
So, it is NOT because Singaporeans do not DARE to do this, it is just an un-Singaporean way of doing things.
They are only contract workers
by Goh Cheng Han
The strikes happened because the drivers are not pleased with the pecking order of benefits. Singaporeans first. PRs and Malaysians second, lastly, contract drivers. From the start, these contract drivers are doing precisely what they’re hired to do: drive on contract, and go home.
Above that, these contract drivers did not join the union. They are not represented by the NTWU.
Their small numbers echo precisely the call for non-reliance on foreign workers: if such a thing happens, the entire group can be terminated.
But the question should be: if we’re going to require another 200 more local drivers, would costs increase. Would these costs be passed on to customers then?
Reduce reliance on foreign workers
No discussion on strikes and unions would be complete without referring back to the NTUC. In July 2010, Lim Swee Say highlighted his concern that the “additional intake of foreign manpower should not dilute our efforts in productivity improvement”. Foreign workers serve as a buffer and a source of additional manpower but ultimately “if we keep taking in foreign manpower, which are unskilled and low-wage and bring them in big numbers, we end up discouraging enterprises from upgrading their workforce and that would be not welcomed by the labour movement”. This position is taken again and again by the NTUC shows just how vital it is for the labour force not to become dependent on foreign workers.
Today’s hoo-ha shows precisely what would happen if your company has too many foreign workers: they can hold you by the nuts.
Fortunately, this is not the case for the SMRT. They can easily terminate all these striking drivers (which carried out their act without green light from the NTWU).