by Vincent Low
In a Straits Times article published on Sunday (11 Feb), Minister in Prime Minister Office Chan Chun Sing related a trip he made to the post office during his student days in Britain.
It was in the late 1980s and Chan was studying at Cambridge University. Wanting to ship his books back home, he packed them into a 20kg box and lugged it to the post office, only to be told that it did not accept 20kg boxes. He was asked to repack his books into boxes of 5kg each, which would have cost more in total to ship back.
"I thought they were trying to smoke me. I looked at (the postal worker) suspiciously, I didn't understand," he recalled.
Later, he realised that the reason for UK postal service setting the 5kg per box limit is to make sure that the older postal workers would be able to carry the boxes. In other words, the British redesigns jobs so as to accommodate the older workers like in the British postal service.
Singapore, too, must redesign jobs to accommodate older workers as the population ages, so that those who want to work can find gainful employment, he told ST.
Singapore prefers to hire foreigners and get them work overtime
But in reality, contrary to what Chan said, it is not the case for the Singaporean older workers.
Even for govt-linked entities like SingPost, they would rather take the easy way out by employing younger foreign workers and even getting them to work overtime. There is no need to redesign any jobs for the older workers here.
This came to light recently when a SingPost postman was caught on camera on Wed (7 Feb) throwing away mails into a rubbish bin. The postman said he came from China.
A SingPost customer captured the incident on video and later confronted the PRC postman, who admitted that he did throw away the mails.
In the video, the customer was heard talking to the PRC in Mandarin: "Be a bit more cooperative and be a bit more honest. A lie, if you lied, just admit it. If someone asked you to distribute, and you put it somewhere else, just be honest and admit it. If don’t admit, I will dig them out one by one. Now the whole of SingPost knows my problem. I won’t let this matter go to rest. I want to find my paper, where exactly it is. To you, it is just a piece of paper of no significance. To me, it is very important to me. You come to Singapore to work, we welcome you. But don’t make the standards degrade till so bad. Just because of one person, SingPost's reputation is in ruins. Do you understand?"
PRC postman: "This I also know, maybe if I told you, you wouldn't believe. But I come from China, and I talk about a practical problem. Not that we willingly throw or being irresponsible. I have over 2,600 over mail. Everyday, including registered mail, you look at the offices and condominiums, (those given to) Malay staff are very few, it is really unfair to me. Originally, I was going to see the doctor today because my ankle hurts, which is why I..."
Other than admitting to throwing the mails away, the PRC postman also said that the reason for his actions is because he was tired and treated unfairly.
He said he had intended to go to a doctor for his hurting ankle but he was told to do overtime by his boss. He shared that he was asked to deliver 2,600 letters that day and was told to do overtime, noting that the Malay staff were not given as much mail like him.
He also noted that he was paid $120 a day with no overtime pay.
SingPost later fired him over the incident.
Writing on Channel News Asia's Facebook, a netizen noted, "SingPost so quickly buried this incident by dismissing the staff but never find the root cause like the staff said was too tired and OT don’t receive pay and etc. Really good management."
Below is a letter written in 2012 by a son whose parents are employees of SingPost
“Both my parents are employees of Singapore Post. They are one of the many neighborhood postman/postwoman who work tirelessly day in and day out, making sure letters are been delivered on time to the residents.
My mother is a postwoman for more then 10 years; my father more then 5 years. All these years, they do not have any CPF contributions, leave benefit, medical benefits or even basic insurance coverage. Their working hours are long. Usually they start work at 1pm, depending on what time the letters are send to their area, and depending on the amount of letters, they usually end work at around 8pm. I remembered alot of times, my parents came home after 8pm, feeling tired, but they have no complains. And this routine goes on and on for years.
There were times when my parents got injured while at work, but they cant claim from the company, just because they are part timers and they have no medical benefits. There were times when we wanted to bring them overseas for holidays, but company don’t allow because they do not have any leave benefits. At times, the company will give reasons like: “sorry, you can’t go on leave, because there are not enough people covering your area”. What is this? Does the company want the neighborhood postman/postwoman to work day in day out, giving up their time with their kids or even grandchildren? This is too much.
Having to work for such long hours, Monday to Friday, rain or shine, there’s no CPF contributions or even the basic benefits a worker should be entitled to, is this fair to them and all other neighborhood postman/postwoman working out there?
This matter have been brought up to Singapore Post for a long time, but all the replies they gave sounds like they are not going to do anything about it. Which is why, I decided to bring this matter to your attention on behalf of the postman/postwoman out there."
Below is SingPost's response