MOM debunks 'unsubstantiated claims' against its officers in Yahoo! S'pore articles

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Saturday debunked "unsubstantiated claims" against its officers in two Yahoo! Singapore articles.

In the articles on the website earlier this month, former SMRT bus driver and Chinese national He Junling had alleged that MOM neglected issues raised by a group of SMRT Chinese bus drivers in 2010, other than helping them to retrieve their passports from SMRT.

The MOM said this was untrue, and that its officers had investigated the living conditions in the drivers' dormitories and their allegations that they had not been paid their bonuses.

It said it had informed the drivers' representatives of its findings, and advised then-SMRT chief executive officer Saw Phaik Hwa in April 2010 to address the drivers' concerns.

He - who was recently jailed and deported for instigating other SMRT drivers to strike last November (2012) - had also said in the Yahoo articles that while MOM officers were present on the strike's first day to negotiate a settlement for the drivers, none showed up on the second day to resume the negotiations. He added that MOM did not inform the drivers that they were breaking the law.

The MOM said these claims were also false. It said its officers had arranged a "dialogue session" between SMRT and the drivers on the first day of the strike. After the session, SMRT and the drivers had agreed that SMRT would consider the issues raised by the employees and respond within a week, while the drivers would resume work the next day, the MOM said. "However, the next day a significant group of drivers refused to return to work."

"At this same session, MOM also advised the drivers that there were proper channels for them to raise their unhappiness over contractual issues, and that their refusal to work was wrong," it added.

The MOM said Yahoo!Singapore had not verified the facts with it before publishing their stories.

Commenting on the allegations against MOM, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin said that "these attempts to cast doubt on (MOM's) professionalism are unfounded, irresponsible and contrary to public interest".

"There is no place for spurious allegations from individuals who break our laws, disrupt our tripartite cooperation and impugn the integrity of our civil servants, nor from those who abet others in these activities," he said.