Firms have duty to help workers settle into jobs
THE public transport companies - both SMRT and SBS Transit - have failed to help some of their foreign workers adjust to the local demands of the job ("Reliance on foreign bus drivers in sharp focus"; Tuesday).
None of the Chinese bus drivers I have encountered so far speak English, nor do they know their route networks well.
They are incapable of assisting their non-Mandarin speaking passengers, including tourists, with directions and transfers.
Worse, some of them do not even clear the litter from their bus for each new trip.
The strike by SMRT's Chinese bus drivers ("Govt moves against 'illegal strike'"; yesterday) is therefore an opportune time for the authorities to address the issue.
I have a few suggestions:
- Place the best Singaporean bus drivers who know our island well on key routes that are frequented by tourists, and provide them with incentives for doing the job of a driver and tour guide well.
- All drivers, including foreigners, are welcome to go after these better-paying roles, as long as they can meet the standard of basic conversational English as well as knowledge of our public transport network and Singapore's key tourist destinations.
- Non-English-speaking bus drivers must meet a minimum standard of spoken English as well as understand their route networks in the language after a reasonable period of time, before they receive their next increment. In the interim, assign them feeder bus routes that are well known to local residents.
- Consider hiring bus drivers from countries where English is more widely spoken such as the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar. All foreign drivers should be treated equally if they can meet the minimum standards. Further bonuses should be pegged to performance.
- Ensure that all bus drivers clean up their vehicles for each new trip. It is the duty of all companies which hire foreign workers, especially those that provide a public service such as transportation, to help them acclimatise to the social norms and high service standards expected here. They should contribute actively to the Government's efforts to integrate foreigners into our culture and society as part of their corporate social responsibility.
Toh Cheng Seong