Home News Featured News SMRT must come clean on wrongful dismissal of train driver

SMRT must come clean on wrongful dismissal of train driver




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By: Philip Ang

Two days ago, NTWU confirmed the SMRT driver involved in a fatal accident in March, where 2 of its trainees were killed, was fired.

PAP MP Melvin Yong, secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU), made the confirmation.

According to Melvin, SMRT had been informed to “withhold any actions against the affected workers until completion of official investigations so as to not prejudice the outcome of the official investigations”. CNA

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But with NTWU being a pseudo workers’ union, it comes as no surprise that its words had fallen on SMRT’s deaf ears: the driver was ‘duly’ dismissed.

To confirm NTWU’s pseudo status, Melvin said “NTWU will review the situation, study the grounds for dismissal …”. This essentially means NTWU is toothless, similar to CASE and NTUC, when it comes to protecting workers’ rights.

In a democratic country, train drivers would be up in arms when management unfairly dismissed one of them. Management will therefore think twice about treating workers in such a high handed manner. In Singapore, it’s a different story and the 49-year old driver is expected to take whatever shit thrown at him while Melvin and his ilk will continue to wayang with MSM’s help.

Unless SMRT comes clean with details on Rahmat’s dismissal, the public will rightly continue to suspect the sacking is merely a cover up for management’s failure.

SMRT had earlier not publicly disclose the action taken against management staff because it wanted to conceal the procedural error. Fortunately, a letter leaked by an employee has confirmed management’s responsibility and the driver has been made a scapegoat. Rahmat could not have stopped the train to prevent the tragedy unless he is some superhero.

I mean, if SMRT did not follow maintenance protocols and a bus with faulty brakes killed a pedestrian, the fault clearly lies with maintenance and not the bus driver.

Token actions against senior managers included “verbal and written warning letters issued to staff across several grades … individual performance grades were recalibrated downwards across various levels of the Trains team, including senior management and staff”. The sheer number of managers and senior management staff involved confirms a systemic issue and Rahmat’s wrongful dismissal.

Was Rahmat not following protocol? Did he continue driving the train after being told to stop?

The letter to SMRT employees was written by MD of SMRT Trains, ex paper general Lee Ling Wee. (Military Expert 8 = Brigadier-General) Lee wrote:

– “It has never been our practice to comment on staff disciplinary measures with the media or members of the public”
– “The words used in the media stories like “fired” and “sacked” were chosen by journalists who wrote these stories [articles]
– “We do not comment on staff disciplinary measures”

Lee must have been kidding to even assume that a matter of public interest could be covered up. It was irrelevant for Lee to even highlight journalists’ choice of words unless of course he didn’t know that “Fired” = “Sacked” = “Dismissed”.

Senior management must face the music and SMRT should not take this issue lightly: the families of its 2 employees who died under incompetent hands deserve justice.

The vague actions taken by SMRT are also meaningless without transparency. “Punishment” style means a slap on the wrist for some, such as, an SAF officer who had caused the death of NSF Dominique was promoted from Captain to Major in 2 years. It is likely that SMRT will “punish” its senior management staff in a similar manner.

The discrimination between rank and file employees and management is too glaring: one gets the sack while management only pays a “fine”. SMRT employees had better beware that anyone could be the next scapegoat. It’s important to collectively show their support for Rahmat to prevent a recurrence.

Someone in top management was ultimately responsible for the 2 deaths – not the driver – and Lee should not complicate the issue by distributing the responsibility to so many staff. I would suggest Lee himself should not wear a skirt, own up and commit hara kiri.

SMRT must come clean on a matter of public interest. Lee should not assume that this is his personal issue.


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