SMRT chief: We could have done more to engage our drivers

SMRT chief Desmond Kuek pays a visit to the Serangoon bus driver dorm.

SMRT chief Desmond Kuek on Friday admitted management could have done more to engage and pro-actively manage its foreign bus driver staff.

Referring to the mass strike by 171 drivers from China earlier this week as an "unfortunate incident", the 48-year-old former Chief of Army said, "It is unfortunate that this incident has happened. It shows that more needs to be done by Management to proactively manage and engage our Service Leaders (SLs)."

In his first public appearance since returning from leave, he also visited  workers’ dormitory at Serangoon on Friday and admitted conditions at the dormitories could "certainly be better". Feedback has been given to the dormitory operators to step up the living conditions of the bus drivers.

Kuek, who took over the SMRT hotseat in October from Saw Phaik Hwa, also visited the Ang Mo Kio bus depot and said SMRT is managing the morale of its staff after four drivers from China were charged on Thursday for allegedly inciting the mass strike earlier this week.

He also repeated SMRT took a serious view of the illegal actions by those who participated in the strikes, and said that they should have used the proper channels to raise their concerns and feedback.

“There are open channels of communications with all our Service Leaders (SLs), such as regular townhall sessions and staff dialogues," he said.

However, new initiatives to improve feedback delivery have been set up. A new 24-hour telephone hotline and an email helpdesk have been set up so that feedback can be given directly and assistance rendered.

The idea
of nominating China bus driver representatives to facilitate effective communication in each of the dormitories will also be implemented. 

Meanwhile, opposition party Workers' Party also said it was disappointed the drivers' grievances were not addressed earlier.

In a statement to the media on Friday, it said, "Strikes should be – and usually are – a measure of last resort by workers who have exhausted all other avenues to persuade management to address their concerns."

It added the strike signals a "failure in the labour dispute settlement process within SMRT... While much of attention this week has focused on the grievances of the bus drivers from China, SMRT must address legitimate concerns that have been raised by all its drivers since the recent revision of salaries and work hours."

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