The Straits Times
Published on Nov 28, 2012

Did management drop the ball over pay gap?


THE SMRT bus drivers' refusal to report for duty ("102 SMRT bus drivers protest against pay" and "Reliance on foreign bus drivers in sharp focus"; yesterday) reveals serious flaws in the recent decision on differential wage adjustments as a result of the drivers' dissatisfaction over the reversion to a six-day work week structure.

A seasoned union adviser said the wage disparity was probably due to SMRT's differing cost structures for the Malaysian and Chinese workers.

The issue of wage differentiation between local and foreign workers is not new. In fact, the Ministry of Manpower has made it clear since the question of salary deductions for accommodation and other benefits accorded to foreign workers surfaced more than a decade ago, that workers, local or foreign, should receive equitable basic wages.

Thus, SMRT's recent wage adjustment policy was a regressive step and contradicts the fundamental human resource practice of paying a similar rate for the job, regardless of nationality.

We should not highlight the protest as an issue between foreign and local workers or advocate the hiring of local over foreign workers.

Furthermore, if we allow and encourage such differential wage adjustment to be practised, we would inevitably be trapped in the same predicament that we intended to avoid - pay locals more or hire foreigners at lower salaries.

Brenton Ong