WP statement on bus drivers’ strike: SMRT must address workers’ grievances better

The Workers’ Party has been following with great concern the unfolding events surrounding the strike by SMRT bus drivers on 26-27 November 2012. As a result of the strike, some bus services were disrupted and commuters suffered inconveniences on our already-crowded public transport network.

This is the first strike in Singapore in more than 25 years. We are disappointed that it took a strike to bring to the forefront the bus drivers’ grievances about their pay and living conditions. We believe that workers’ rights to engage in industrial action (including strikes) must only be done within the bounds of the law. Strikes should be – and usually are – a measure of last resort by workers who have exhausted all other avenues to persuade management to address their concerns.

This strike signals a failure in the labour dispute settlement process within SMRT. By its own admission, the SMRT management needs to improve the way it engages its bus drivers. While much attention this week has focused on the grievances of the bus drivers from China, SMRT must address legitimate concerns that have been raised by all its bus drivers since the recent revision of salaries and work hours. We urge SMRT to keep its commitment to improve working conditions for all its workers and ensure channels of communication between workers and management remain open.

It is in Singapore’s interests, and in line with our nation’s values, that all workers are treated fairly, so that they are motivated to perform their jobs with excellence. This is especially so for workers providing essential public services as it affects not just the local public but also Singapore’s international reputation.

As the cases of four SMRT bus drivers who have been charged with instigating the illegal strike are now before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment on these specific cases. Our MPs will be asking the Government questions on this issue during the next sitting of Parliament.

30 November 2012