Firms 'must reflect on employment practices'

The strike by the Chinese SMRT bus drivers should serve as a timely reminder to all companies to reflect on their management practices, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

They should look at the way they engage and take care of their workers, he said.

What is important is for companies to keep open lines of communication and have proper procedures in place to handle grievances.

Whatever grievances that exist should not be allowed to fester over time, he added.

"It is not just about foreign workers but our own local workers as well. It is about basic corporate social responsibility," he said.

By and large, though, employers here have been responsible in the way they treat their workers, both local and foreign, judging by the surveys and feedback solicited, he said.

"But we do want to promote better employment practices, we want to make sure that good HR practices are in place," he added.

The episode is hence a good opportunity for companies to realise that even though they may not be breaking any laws, there are other responsibilities expected of them as employers, he said.

He added that the Singapore National Employers Federation will be issuing an advisory to its members on this soon.

On the issue of poor living conditions provided by SMRT, which the drivers who took action claimed was the case in their dormitories, Mr Tan noted that the Manpower Ministry conducts regular checks on dormitories to ensure that they are up to par and there is no overcrowding.

He said that while external areas of dormitories are contracted out, the condition of each bunk depends primarily on the workers.

"I think we also need to ask ourselves about the level of maintenance that individuals carry out. And this applies to even our own households," he said.

Maria Almenoar