On the labour dispute between SMRT and its drivers from China

Posted by on November 29, 2012 in News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

Press Release
29 November 2012

情网下翻阅

Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) notes with concern statements issued by some stakeholders since the SMRT labour dispute on 26 November 2012. Until key facts have been established by the police and full accounts from both employer and workers given a chance to be heard, TWC2 calls upon the Ministry of Manpower and NTUC to adopt a more measured and balanced approach to the incident.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin has branded the workers’ action as an ‘illegal strike’ for which there will be ‘zero tolerance’. Together with statements from NTUC and SMRT, he gave an impression that due process was available and the workers chose not to use it. From this emerges a picture of willful and irresponsible foreign workers who need to be punished in order to avoid copycat actions that would damage Singapore’s industrial relations.

TWC2 does not like to see labour disputes settled by disruptive industrial action nor does it support illegal wildcat strikes. However, in this instance, some questions need answers before the rights and wrongs of this incident can be fully understood.

A disproportionate amount of attention has focused on events from 26 November when preceding developments that precipitated the workers’ action are equally pertinent. A key concern should be how long the workers must wait to have their grievances addressed by management. This leads to another question of what the consequences are for employers who, through their action or inaction, have aggravated the situation. If  ‘zero tolerance’ is the prescribed policy for workers engaged in illegal strikes, what should the consequences be for their employers who fail to adequately address their concerns?

There are claims that the workers should have taken their case through due processes available. Drawing on TWC2’s experience, there is a gap between what is offered on paper as due process and what actually happens. Given the disputes involved in this case, had the SMRT workers approached the MOM, they might have been told that their employers had not violated any Singapore law and therefore it is beyond the ken of the Ministry to assist.

Clearly, bargaining with one’s employer for a fair wage is a job for trade unions rather than individual workers. NTUC only got into the picture after the dispute erupted and stated that none of the workers were union members. Is this the best that Singapore’s industrial relations can expect from NTUC? Foreign workers doing low paid work are precisely the workers we feel that are most in need of the protection of a trade union. It’s not clear from press reports that an adequate consultation process was available. There are deeper and broader issues underlying this dispute and they include Singapore’s processes of dealing with labour disputes fairly and promptly. If public discourse is limited to the punishment of the striking workers, TWC2 fears Singapore will not learn the right lessons from this unfortunate incident.

关于SMRT与中国司机的劳资纠纷

客工亦重文告
2012年11月29日

自从SMRT与中国司机的劳资纠纷在今年12月26日开始以来,一些相关机构的说法让客工亦重 (TWC2)感到相当关注。在警方掌握此事的关键资讯,而劳资双方都有机会提出看法之前,客工亦重呼吁人力部和全国职工总会采取更慎重和平衡的态度。

人力部代部长陈川仁已把中国客工的行为归类为“非法罢工”,并说政府会对此采取“零容忍”的态度。联合全国职工总会和SMRT的发言陈代部长让给人的印象是,客工可以通过正确管道提出不满,但他们选择不使用。因此,他们塑造了一个“任性并不负责任的客工”的形象,让人觉得这些客工必须被惩罚,以免以后出现类似的行动,破坏我国的劳资关系。

客工亦重不想看到劳资纠纷通过具破坏性的行为解决,也不支持自发性的非法罢工。但是,在这起事件中,还有一些问题必须解答,我们才能完整理解其中的是非对错。

导致客工采取这次行动的事情与26日以来的事件同样重要,后者却获得不成比例的关注。事件的关键之一是,客工必须等多久,管理层才会处理他们的不满。另一个相关的问题是,通过某些行为或疏忽加剧情况的雇主,将面对什么后果。如果我国对非法罢工的工人采取“零容忍”的态度,那没有妥善解决他们诉求的雇主,应该面对什么后果呢?

有人说,这些客工应该通过正确管道去提出不满,但是根据客工亦重的经验,名义上存在的所谓正确管道,与现实情况往往有差距。因为这起事件中的纠纷性质,如果SMRT的客工向人力部求助,人力部可能告诉他们,雇主没有违反任何新加坡的法律,此事不在人力部的管辖范围之内。

显然,向雇主争取公平的薪金,应该是工会而不是个别员工去进行。全国职工总会在纠纷爆发后才出面,说明事件中的中国司机都不是工会会员。难道我国的劳资关系中,全国职工总会只能扮演这样的角色吗?我们觉得,低薪的外国客工恰恰是最需要工会保护的群体。媒体的报导并没有显示,客工群体可以获得足够的咨询与协议。这起纠纷底下,有更深更广的问题存在,包括新加坡公平与及时处理劳资纠纷的过程。如果社会舆论只限于罢工工人应该如何被惩罚,那客工亦重担心,新加坡不会从这起不幸事件中吸取到正确的教导。

 

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our
means.

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