The Straits Times
Published on Nov 28, 2012

Attract local workers who can deliver


I FELT a sense of deja vu reading yesterday's front page report that included a photo of SMRT bus drivers gathered outside their dormitory ("102 SMRT bus drivers protest against pay").

I had flashbacks of my schooldays in the 1960s, when strikes were commonplace, especially among workers from the now-defunct transport operators such as the Hock Lee Bus Company, the Singapore Traction Company and the Tay Koh Yat Bus Company.

There were instances of striking bus workers who took the law into their own hands, damaging public property and causing harm to innocent people. Sometimes, lives were lost.

Such industrial action was disruptive to life: Schools were temporarily closed while shops put up the shutters most of the time. In short, life came to a standstill and political and social stability were not guaranteed.

For decades now, we have enjoyed industrial peace, and we should preserve this congenial environment at all costs.

We must not and cannot revert to the old days where workers had no qualms about striking if they did not see eye to eye with their employers.

The protest by the SMRT bus drivers from China serves as a reminder that we cannot rely too much on foreign workers. The present situation warrants a change of mindset.

It is time again to consider paying higher wages and better perks to attract local workers who can deliver. We must avoid a penny wise and pound foolish situation in which lowly paid workers not only fail to deliver, but also cause industrial unrest at the workplace.

Jeffrey Law