Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Result of over reliance of foreign workers

What does the recent illegal strike from foreign workers from SMRT Buses Ltd tell you about Singapore? We are over relying on cheap foreign workers and the foreign workers are beginning to realise that fact.

In one of the interviews with one of the workers who went on strike, he went as far to admit that they know that if a significant number of them do not go to work, it will cause a public outcry as the public transport service level will be affected. This is evidence that they have knowledge that their actions will cause a disruption and they went ahead to do it because they wanted disruption.

Even the cause of the strike is not justified. They are paid, they just had an increment albeit lower than others, but they wanted more. Seriously, if they were seriously mistreated by SMRT, I would have said that the strike is justified, but this is not the case. The fact is that they had an increment outside of the contract clauses, and they were not happy with it. So they organised an illegal strike to express their unhappiness.

A message needs to be sent with regard to this kind of action and the rule of the law cannot be influenced by any outside influence. I believe Singapore does not want the case where all services are disrupted because employees choose to strike over any reason. Can you imagine yourself going to work or play, but unable to do so, because some employees choose strike over some reason and blockage the area that you need to pass through?

This over reliance of foreign workers have been evident since we open the floodgates years ago. In the name of keeping costs down, companies are allowed to "import cheap foreign workers" and make increasing profits, at the expense of service levels. Sometimes they even use the "cheap foreign workers" as justification that Singaporeans salaries are too high. Our employment act does not help protect our workers because it is far too generic, letting companies get away with employment contract clauses that are too beneficial to the employers and not the employees.

All workers, regardless of citizens, PRs or foreign workers, need to be educated on the powers of the employment act, and what are the avenues available to us if we have problems. Sufficient teeth must be in the act so that a strong message is sent out to employers that they need to be fair to us. It's already well known in the world that Singapore workers work one of longest hours in the world, and one of the least public holidays gazetted too. No wonder our fertility rate is low. We're all too tired when we reach home, or we're working our butts off after dinner.

First step must be taken to stop this, and the update of the employment act to better protect all workers is the correct step.

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