Friday, July 5, 2013

"Peter Png's" Reply to a slam on Singapore's Labour by China

Have a read at this article and then this person's comments.

"Thank you for this article. Let me address this article in perspective.
There are several hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals working or living in Singapore. Some have taken up Singapore citizenship. This speaks a lot for a tiny city state punching above its weight.
It is true the Singapore authorities adopted a zero tolerance approach when the disruption of essential services is concerned. Imagine these situations: nurses and doctors going on strike during an epidemic; bus and train workers going on strike during big national events or school examinations; other transport workers going slow in a concerted effort, clogging up roads and expressways with their lorries and big vehicles and many others. This is one of the many reasons why Singapore has remained a choice country for Foreign Direct Investment even though it is a small city state devoid of natural resources.
1) The Chinese worker interviewed as an “aggrieved” party. How objective can his views be?
2) In terms of living conditions, the dormitory the Chinese workers live in is shared by hundreds of workers from other countries as well? How was it that only a handful complained of the living conditions? If bed-bugs were a constant menace, how was it that the rest of the workers living in the same dormitory did not complain? I certainly reckon that hygiene is a personal responsibility.
3) Singapore is in dire need of good and hardworking foreign workers to do the jobs many Singaporeans shun. Employers, in engaging these foreign workers have also spent a lot of time and money teaching and training them in their jobs. The experiences gained by these workers after years of training are valuable assets to the employers. Why should the employers then want to cancel work permit without good reasons? In fact, many good and hardworking Chinese nationals were given the 2nd 2-year contract after their 1st 2-year contract.

4) Was he made a scapegoat? No. A thorough investigation was made by the police Had the authorities taken a sterner approach, more would have been punished. In fact, only 6 were singled out as those who called and led the illegal strike. These 6 were jailed and deported after their released from prison. 29 workers who also took part in the strike were spared jail sentence and deported. The rest of the workers were warned and allowed to continue working in Singapore.
5) It is indeed sad that many Chinese nationals have to pay 30,000 RMB to the employment agencies in China for overseas employment placements. However, these agencies are set up by Chinese business people who see it as a good business venture. It is definitely not the fault of Singapore employers if the Chinese
business people chose to ‘milk’ their own country men.
6) Also, the Chinese Embassy in Singapore was kept abreast of the entire episode. If something is amiss, certainly it would
have voiced its concern.
7) The next question is should all drivers regardless of skills and experience be paid the same amount of salary? Of course not. For example, the Malaysian drivers can speak English, Chinese, Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese etc what are quite
commonly spoken in Singapore. Chinese PRC drivers tend to speak only Chinese and a little English. Furthermore, the Malaysian drivers do not have free accomodation and transport allowance. The Chinese PRC drivers are given free housing in dormitories and are ferried to and from workplace and the dormitories. These costs can come up to a few hundred dollars a month.
8) Why did the company change the working hours? It is because many drivers are clocking too many hours of overtime. While this is good for the drivers, it is bad for their health and it is also not a good practice. Yes, every worker wants to earn overtime. Given the choice, most would want to do the 8 hour normal hours and clock 10 hours of overtime 7 days a week. Such an
arrangement will definitely help good and hardworking ones make a lot of money. The problem is these workers are already clocking a lot of overtime. Also, please do not forget they are bus drivers and they need enough rest in order to control the steering wheels. Many precious lives are in their hands when they are on the road.
9) And he too complained that because of the different working hours, they could not get enough sleep when their roommates walked in and out of the rooms while they were sleeping. This got very much to do with the drivers themselves being more thoughtful and considerate for the co-workers and country men. Furthermore, If he does not get enough sleep and still want to clock extra hours of overtime, isn't he a walking time bomb, especially when he is a driver? Hundreds of lives on the bus are in his hands when he is on the road.

10) We have to note that the Chinese nationals drivers are not excluded from the wage increments because they are Chinese nationals, but because they have signed a contract of service which clearly stipulated their remunerations.
11) An interest thing to note was the government
referred to the 27th November industrial action as an illegal strike but made no mention about the one on 26th November. Thus, it is now quite certain that had all the workers gone back to work after the 26th November 2012 meeting with the officials from the Manpower Ministry, the union leaders, officials from the SMRT and the drivers, the entire episode would have been a non-episode. Those who went back to work after the meeting were let off with a warning. Of those who went ahead with their strike on the 27th November, many were also let off with a warning, 29 were given a warning and deported, 6 were jailed and deported upon their release from prison.
12)) The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore takes
a keen interest in the welfare and the well-being of foreign workers. Their doors are always open to reasonable and logical complaints. Even if workers are not union members, they can always seek help at MOM. Are the drivers too preoccupied with overtime and do not have time to go and see the officials at MOM to voice their concerns?
13) It is not true that foreign workers are not allowed to join unions. For most, the reason why they did not join was chiefly because they thought they were not here on a permanent basis and did not see the need to pay the union dues every month. They failed to see the benefits of joining the union then. After this episode, many foreign bus drivers joined the National Transport Workers Union after realizing the benefits of joining the union.

14) However it is true that foreign workers are not
allowed to be office bearers in unions. It is definitely not to the union benefits to have a foreign worker as an office bearer when majority of its members are Singaporeans.
15) As for the contract of employment, it was
supposed to be handled by the employment agencies in China. Why did the Chinese drivers
not request for a Chinese worded contract when they signed up with the employment agencies in China? Do they now know their contractual rights in China? How they signed an English contract
without comprehending the details is really beyond my comprehension.
16) Are strikes illegal in Singapore? No. There
are not. There are, however certain procedures to be complied with before workers can resort to such industrial actions.
17) Finally, please note that the National Trade
Union Congress is the sole national trade union centre in Singapore with 61 affiliated unions and 1 taxi association. It is not a State-Controlled Body. The union chief or the secretary general is
democratically elected by all the 61 union in the congress. He also holds a position in the Government Cabinet because NTUC as well as the Singapore Government believes
strongly in Tripartism – a cordial working relationship between the Government,
the Unions and the Employers. Tripartism is one of the reason why Singapore flourished even though it is a small city state with virtually nothing other than good people, good economics and a good government. This point was well noted by ILO when it sent a mission to study the Tripartism model in Singapore in 2010. Please refer to this report:"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Imaginary Diary of an Ang Moh in Singapore

(this is just creative licence... true or not, up to you to believe :P )

9am: Wake up. I’m sooo hungover. Maybe I shouldn’t have said yes to that last drink at dblO. I definitely shouldn’t have said yes to that trip to O Towers. I always get into fights there and end up missing all the fun. Oh well, might as well enjoy while I’m young, right?

10:15am: Still haven’t left for work. Screw it, the interns can cover for me. That’s what they’re paid for aren’t they? And they’re so shy they won’t even dare say anything when I get there. Oh, the things I get away with in this country!

11am: Got to the office right on time, just as the boss was looking for me. Not sure if he noticed I was late. I’ll need to take him out for drinks one of these days to get back on his good side. Good thing he’s a Westerner like me, makes it much easier to find a common ground! 

12pm: Just enough time to check Facebook and watch a couple of videos before heading out for lunch. Not sure what I’ll have today. No way I’m going to that dirty hawker centre. I still don’t get how locals can eat that greasy food. Salad it is!

12:15pm: Managed to avoid going to lunch with my Singaporean colleagues. They’d probably bore me with some stupid Korean drama I’ve never heard about or with their high score on Candy Crush. Ugh.

1:30pm: Perfect. The lunch rush hour crowd is gone. I really can’t stand being shoved around while trying to enjoy my meal. Doesn’t anyone appreciate meals in this country? Whatever happened to sitting down and actually enjoying your food instead of shoving it down your throat and congratulating yourself on how cheap it was?

1:35pm: Oh look at that. This lady thinks her tissue packet entitles her to this seat. Too bad she doesn’t know my favourite past time is taking the packet and then pretending I don’t know what happened to it. If there weren’t so many cameras around I’d probably take some of the cell phones and access cards people leave on tables. Just to teach them a lesson.

3pm: Back to the office. Oh, great. Someone had some of those stinky garlic fish head soup thingies that stink up the place. Thanks for that!

3:14pm: I need a nap. Maybe if I lock myself in the toilet I can catch a few minutes of peace and quiet. Oh, actually no. Those toilets are always disgusting. I’ll never understand why people here still haven’t gotten the simple concept of the non-squatting toilet…

3:30pm: Got a series of texts from that girl I met the other night. I kind of like her. Even if one of my friends told me she was probably someone’s maid. Maybe I should just blow her off. When did I get so superficial? Oh, yeah, the day I moved here.

4:30pm: Just what I needed. A meeting about a meeting we should have next week. For a country that prides itself on its efficiency they sure love talking about doing things and never actually doing them. Maybe that’s how I’ve managed to get a great career here.

4:43pm: The boss isn’t looking too happy. If he asks me about that report I’ll just blame someone else. After all, it’s my Foreign Talent word against someone else’s, right?

5pm: Need to leave this stuffy office. Fast. What is it with Singapore and the aircon at full blast? Would it kill them to open a window once in a while? When did they become so scared of fresh air and natural sunlight?

5:15pm: What a surprise. Not a taxi in sight. I sincerely don’t understand how a city so proud of its technological advancements can get to a standstill as soon as it rains a bit too much. They’d probably drown if they spent just one month in my hometown where a rainy day is the norm!

5:30pm: Finally, a cab! Oh, great. He drives like a maniac. Hope my salad doesn’t make a comeback…

5:36pm: Sorry Uncle, I only have this 50 dollar bill. What, you don’t like it? Well too bad. ATMs only give out 50 dollar bills, maybe you should have anticipated that instead of making me feel like I’ve intentionally inconvenienced you.

6pm: Home sweet home. What a day! Time to hit the condo’s gym. Or maybe go for a swim? Whichever it is, I need to work on my body if I want to stay popular with all the exotic ladies in this country.

6:30pm: Skipped the gym, went straight to the casino. Nothing like a thick wallet to attract the ladies!

9pm: Made it back home, slightly tipsy and a little richer. What a sweet, sweet life. Girls, gambling, and carefree fun. 

That’s my Singapore.