I share the view of reader Patrick Tan Siong Kuan that both the Government and the SMRT must be held accountable to the many problems affecting our train systems that has caused frequent breakdowns, resulting in much inconvenience to passengers (SMRT incident: Holding leaders accountable is not ‘politicising’ the issue, October 26, 2017, MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper).
Every day, thousands of people rely on the MRT to travel to work, go to school, attend to their medical appointments and to see to their other needs. Thus, it is necessary to identify the problems that is causing the frequent breakdowns and then take remedial steps to ensure that the system is running smoothly; otherwise productivity will suffer. In addition, the SMRT will lose revenue.
It was revealed recently by the SMRT Management that some of these problems such as the unprecedented flooding in the tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations were caused by poor maintenance. Employees from the SMRT's building and facilities department, which oversees areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation, and flood and fire protection measures at train stations has admitted to lapses in their work.
The 6 staff who had falsified the maintenance records at Bishan are being taken to task and would be disciplined, while a probe is being carried out on 7 managers. While some people including a forum, writer are of the view that those responsible for the breakdowns ought to be sacked, I do not share that view given that jobs are so hard to come by these days. And if the affected staff are dismissed, they as well as their loved ones will sink into depression – sooner or later. We should avoid taking this route.
On a more positive note, it was encouraging that Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and the SMRT Management has made a public apology for the poor maintenance, promised more improvements to the rail network and have offered an amnesty for workers who were guilty of not doing proper maintenance.
I have much empathy for Minister Khaw as it is no easy task managing the transport ministry. We have to understand that the MRT trains are old and just like our seniors, will slow down. So, it’s only fair to exercise some patience in his unenviable task of getting the trains system to run smoothly again. Moreover, most of the MRT staff are hardworking and they should be commended for moving commuters from one point to another – in double quick time.
A conducive working environment is vital for productivity. One has to understand why the SMRT workers who did poor maintenance were not up to mark. Were they demoralised in any way?
Instead of breeding negativity all the time, there needs to be positive traits to motivate all of us, including workers at all levels, to excel.
Several years ago, when foreign domestic workers (FDW) were poorly treated by some employers, I had proposed to the then-Manpower Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang and to the press that Singapore introduces a Model Employer and a Model FDW award scheme; and although there are still a handful of errant employers who still abuse maids, there is so much improvements between employer and FDWs following the scheme which has been implemented annually. By enlarge, now most employers of FDWs are more understanding to their maids.
In a somewhat similar vein, an effective way to ensure that workers who adopt poor work attitudes do not continue to do so, SMRT can allow her model workers to mentor unproductive employees and in the process, motivate and inspire colleagues to give their very best. While this is being done, concurrently, the HR staff should counsel them and give them encouragement.
The SMRT has been put into the spotlight time and again – for all the wrong reasons. It is therefore crucial that its image has to be rebuilt. In every organisation, performance has to be linked to productivity. It was reported that in the press that the remuneration of the top management of SMRT will be reviewed.
One way SMRT’s image can be rebuilt is to provide a one-off transport voucher of anything between $30-$50 for the needy from part of the savings generated from the savings derived from pay cuts of the top management. These transport vouchers can be handed to the grassroots advisers’ island-wide for onward transmission to those with disabilities and unemployed Singaporeans aged 60 and above.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO