Friday, 22 September 2023

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SMRT strike: consequences of our Singaporean First principle?

by: Ng Yi Shu
This chart, as we might now be familiar with, shows the root cause of what the current SMRT fiasco is about.
SMRT bus driver pay
It is rare to see strikes in Singapore, let alone one that has lasted this long. The last strike by foreign workers was in February this year by a group of foreign workers in Tampines who were not paid for their work.
It might perhaps be unnerving to say that this chart represents the result of prejudice at work. SMRT might not seem to be a pro-Singaporean employer, but in this case, they have certainly been so.
Calls for inequality (ironically based on equality) have been mounting for years, as opposition parties ran on the basis of a Singaporean First principle and putting Singaporeans first became first on the PAP’s agenda for this year in the National Day Rally. The mounting rage over rising costs of living fueled by our increasing desire to have greater social mobility has fueled this call for inequality for quite some time now.
This is not to say that the reasons for such anger are unfounded. But those that deny that Singaporeans are a xenophobic lot have been proven wrong after this; SMRT is potentially representative of employers that increasingly maltreat their foreign workers and award preferences over Singaporeans.
Our ideals of equality, peace and justice have been increasingly overlooked to favour our own Singaporeans. While this might have raised the qualities of life for many Singaporeans, one might wonder what foreign workers think about maltreatment.
Humans have an innate desire for equality that goes right back to our primate ancestors. Even today, monkeys have shown a propensity for equality, rejecting unequal pay.
Humans may have professed to desire to build a society based on justice and equality, but this strike has shown that society has not based its decisions on these values. In the aftermath of this strike, citizens have written to express their desire to have the 102 PRC Chinese drivers prosecuted. More have said that this strike is a consequence of a pro-immigrant policy. Serves the PAP right, they say.
Whether this separation was caused by our greedy desire for cheap labour or our (noble?) desire for equality for Singaporeans, we might never know.
All it takes now to reverse this trend is the recognition as a nation that our values are paramount. The decision to base our actions over these values may not be a small one; government may have to add more subsidies to transport; fares might hike. Whether or not we are willing to pay that extra sum of money to make sure a fellow human gets their fair share of pay for their work is up to us. It might be a bit hard to swallow, but perhaps that no price is big when it comes to values – for it defines our country.
Equal pay for equal work – sounds idealistic, but it’s certainly probable.

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