Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Of empathy and bus drivers

In the debate about emotionless Singaporeans, it is useful to have some evidence rather than conjecture. 

I give you the Business Times and reporting on a “strike” by some bus drivers.   

The reporter manages to cover the story without actually talking to a bus driver, which is pretty amazing considering it was a work stoppage by bus drivers. 

We learn that the gentlemen in question were recruited from China on contract, they are not unionized, they are housed in a dormitory, and they are paid S$1,000 per month, which is less than other drivers doing the same job.  This disparity in pay increased after a recent round of pay adjustments, in which the contract drivers did not receive an increase.   

We also learn that the drivers refused to go to work at the beginning of their 4am shift, SMRT management called the riot police at 10am, and talks with the drivers didn't start until 12 hours after the work refusal started..

So those are the facts as reported. 

The total absence of empathy is telling.   

At a time when the government is cutting the number of foreign workers, we find that public transport, run by a government controlled company, is importing workers at low pay.  We learn that the national business newspaper, also government controlled, refers to the drivers as “PRC nationals”, and does not attempt to learn or understand their side of the issue. 

What must it be like to have left your home with the promise of a job in Singapore, and then to find that you are housed in a dormitory, expected to work side-by-side with people earning more than you, and not to get a pay increment in a country with a 5% inflation rate?

Do you feel intimidated when "45 police officers, 3 patrol cars, and 4 special operations command vehicles were deployed" at your dormitory?

We will never know, because these are not people, they are PRC nationals.

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