This is a guest post contributed by JM Wong.
Being in the service industry in Singapore isn’t easy. I mean, being a Singaporean ourselves, you’d know that we’re a bunch of people that are pretty hard to please.
You won’t believe how our unsung heroes, the ones keeping Singapore’s public transport systems running, have been mistreated by some commuters for the most ridiculous reasons.
Last year in November, it was reported that a man was sentenced to jail for assaulting an SMRT bus driver for missing his stop.
In January this year, a man went on a rant against a bus driver because he was driving too slowly.
And in yet another recent piece of news, we have a passenger who demanded the bus driver make a U-turn for her after she missed her bus stop.
Honestly, if it’s not for such news, how many of us here would take a moment to think about our public transport workers, even though we use public transport every day?
This is precisely why Labour MP Melvin Yong, who is also the Executive-Secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) is asking for the public transport workers’ needs and interests to be well taken care of.
Over the years, Melvin has been calling for several issues in favour of the public transport workers.
1. No more fighting for the right of way with other vehicles
For the sake and safety of all road users, Melvin has asked for more full-day bus lanes to be implemented and perhaps, for dedicated lanes for cyclists to be introduced. This is to prevent road users from falling off from their vehicles when buses get too close to them.
Dedicated bus lanes aren’t uncommon. Cities in other countries like Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, just to name a few, already have 24/7 bus lane up and running.
He also called for road works, particularly those along bus lanes, to be confined to non-peak hours so that bus schedules will not be affected.
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Good for us also, right?
2. More parking lots for buses at bus interchanges
To cater to the 1,000+ buses that have been added under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme, Melvin has called for more parking lots to be built at bus interchanges.
When there are more buses, obviously there is a need for more parking lots. Or else the bus captains will have to wait longer to park their vehicles, which will then eat into their break duration.
3. Extend bus shelters to remove “rain curtain”
This is so that the bus captains and commuters like you and I will not get drenched when it is raining, especially when helping commuters in wheelchairs or with strollers to board or alight from the bus.
4. More emphasis on workplace safety and health
As the saying goes, “A happy worker is a productive, healthy and engaged worker.”
In his budget debate speech on the opening day of Budget debate this week, Melvin called for more to be done to reduce workplace stress which can lead to poor mental and physical health, as well as increased rates of work-related injuries and accidents.
He urged for medical examinations to be made mandatory for all workers so that there can be better detection and prevention of chronic occupational diseases in the workers, as well as healthy eating habits to be promoted and made affordable in workplaces.
One very good example that Melvin has set himself is to ensure that healthier food options are available and made affordable for transport workers.
The NTWU has worked with Health Promotion Board to bring healthier food options to the 46 NTWU canteens islandwide.
They also partnered with SBS Transit and SMRT to incentivise workers by rewarding them with food vouchers when they opt for healthier brown rice options.
Good to see that the health and wellness of workers are being prioritized over other things.
Because erm, our lives and safety are in the hands of these transport workers when we ride the public transportation, remember?
5. Provide workers with relevant and proper training
What do you think will happen if the transport workers are not adequately trained to handle, for instance, a new vehicle? Not only would they put themselves at risk, but it might also endanger the lives of others.
I’m sure nobody wants a tragedy to happen. So yes, adequate training for the transport workers please!
Aside from that, as the workforce evolves and transforms, there’s a chance that workers in several sectors will be disrupted with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence and automation. To transform transport workers into worker 4.0 so that they can remain employed and have better wages, training is essential.
6. Ensure the transport workers have diamond-studded iron rice bowl
For that to happen, union leaders and management staff at the company level must be able to identify new jobs and proactively plan for the necessary training to prepare workers for transformation.
In his budget speech, Melvin said,
“With the increasing pace of technological advancement, we must ensure that workers are able to tap on training opportunities and ensure that they continue to stay relevant amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
The best way to ensure that transport workers have job security is to make sure that they are well-equipped and “polished” with skills that are required for future jobs. Bring it on, disruption and technologies!
7. Better respect for our public transport workers
Wait, isn’t that basic human decency to treat others with respect and consideration?
8. I help you, you help me, we are happy family
A woman was trying to get off a train in Saitama, north of Tokyo, when she fell in a gap between the train and the platform. Thank goodness for the spontaneous and helpful commuters and staff who rushed forward to push the train. The woman was freed within minutes, without sustaining any injuries.
In another incident that happened in Newton, United States, a man was waiting for a train when he had a heart attack. Again, thanks to other passengers on the platform, the man’s life was saved.
Now, remember the massive train breakdown on the North-South Line back in 2017? I thought it was heartwarming to see voluntary groups stepping up to offer help and spread positivity amidst the disruption and ahem, negativity.
If we have more commuters like people in the Facebook group, TATA SMRT (The Alternate Transport Advisory & Spore Magnificent Rescue Team) to help frontline transport workers and other commuters during service disruptions or emergencies, perhaps, Singaporeans wouldn’t be labelled the world’s most emotionless people liao. Jeez, I really don’t like that label.
Help each other lah, the world would be a better place if everyone can be more tolerant, patient, and kind.
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