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SMRT bus drivers strike
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SMRT bus drivers strike



This case was prepared by Peh Yuxin and Tammie Kang Zi Ying as an assignment for CS 4033 Corporate Communications Management at Nanyang Technological University.

This case was prepared by Peh Yuxin and Tammie Kang Zi Ying as an assignment for CS 4033 Corporate Communications Management at Nanyang Technological University.



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SMRT bus drivers strike Presentation Transcript

  • 1. STRIKING a balance for SMRT’s bus drivers A Corporate Communications Management case study Group members: Peh Yuxin Tammie Kang Zi Ying
  • 2. Disclaimer This case was developed based on archival research with the sole purpose for class discussion. It does not aim to serve as endorsements or to be used as a source of primary data to illustrate managerial practices of the organization(s) or individual(s) mentioned in the case.
  • 3. Objectives This case aims to illustrate the importance of effective communication during a crisis. Corporate communication practitioners need to consider for all the factors pertaining to the crisis, before carrying out appropriate strategies at the right time. At the end you will be asked to categorise SMRT’s stakeholders according to their salience, identify and evaluate communication strategies by SMRT, the government and trade unions and come up with alternative strategies or improve on their existing strategies.
  • 4. The Story 26th November 2012 ● 102 SMRT mainland Chinese bus drivers went on a strike ● Some bus services were disrupted ● Chinese bus drivers were unhappy about their wages (compared to their Malaysian colleagues) ● After negotiation, the bus drivers promised to return to work the next day
  • 5. Source: Adapted from The Straits Times, from http://www.straitstimes. com/sites/straitstimes. com/files/imagecache/st ory-galleryfeatured/strike26e.jpg 26th November 2012: 102 bus drivers refused to work
  • 6. The Story 27th November 2012 ● 88 bus drivers continued their “no-show” ● Their reason this time: they were on sick leave ● Labour strikes are a first in Singapore after 26 years ● What should Kuek’s first step be? ● How should Kuek address the situation and balance the interests of SMRT’s stakeholders? ● How can Kuek regain and maintain the public’s trust?
  • 7. Source: Adapted from wiseoftheday. blogspot.com, from http://wiseoftheday. blogspot. sg/2012/11/smrtbus-strike-for-2ndday-minister.html 27th November 2012: 88 bus drivers reported in sick, a mobile clinic was set up to monitor the validity of these claims
  • 8. Situational Analysis - About SMRT ● SMRT Corporation Ltd (SMRT) is a multimodal public transport service provider in Singapore ● 4 main services: ○ ○ ○ ○ SMRT Taxis Pte Ltd SMRT Buses Ltd SMRT Light Rail Pte Ltd SMRT Trains
  • 9. Situational Analysis - About SMRT ● Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd (Temasek) is SMRT’ s parent company, owning 54.2% of its shares ● Temasek was incorporated in 1974 to hold and oversee investments previously made by the Singapore Government after the country’s independence in 1965
  • 10. Situational Analysis - Unions in Singapore ● National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is the only national trade union centre in Singapore ● National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) is an affliated union under the NTUC, which represents employees in the transport industry ○ As of 2013, they have about 18,000 members in the union
  • 11. Situational Analysis - Foreign bus drivers ● Bus operators in Singapore are hiring more drivers from China and Malaysia ● Singaporeans are less keen on taking the job ○ Low pay and long, irregular hours ● NTWU President, Lau Lye Hock - what matters is also job flexibility
  • 12. Situational Analysis - Foreign bus drivers ● Since 2007, SMRT has been recruiting foreign bus drivers ○ About 44% of SMRT’s total number of bus drivers are foreigners (as of end 2012) ○ Half of these drivers are from mainland China, while the other half are from Malaysia
  • 13. Reasons for going on strike ● Main cause: unequal and unfair wages between Chinese and Malaysian bus drivers ● Change from 5-day work week to 6-day work week, leading to drop in net salary ● Poor living conditions ○ ○ ○ Lack of space: 8 drivers in a dormitory room with double-decker beds No fridges nor washing machines Disturbance due to different working schedules ● Turned down when they tried to apply for union membership, because of short-term contract.
  • 14. Reactions SMRT 26th November 2012 ● ● Immediately call back bus drivers on leave to ensure that bus service disruption is kept to the minimum Negotiated with Chinese bus drivers together with MOM authorities 27th November 2012 ● ● ● Filed a police report for investigations into possible breaches of the law Conducted internal investigations to examine if they breached their terms of employment Reassure uninvolved bus drivers that their services and contributions are valued by company
  • 15. Reactions Three days after the strikes: ● President and CEO Desmond Kuek visited Serangoon dormitory to talk to bus drivers about the strike. He reported positive feedback ● SMRT implemented a 24-hour telephone hotline and an email helpdesk to facilitate employee feedback ● There will also be a Chinese representative for each dormitory to ensure open and frequent communication between bus drivers and SMRT management level
  • 16. Reactions Trade Unions ● On the day of the strike, NTWU claimed that it “does not have the legal mandate to represent the PRC bus workers of SMRT” as they were not union members ● Encouraged the bus drivers to resume work immediately
  • 17. Reactions Trade Unions ● NTUC supported the government in their handling of the strikes ● NTUC agreed that action will need to be taken, regardless of their nationalities ● NTUC on the strikes: ○ ○ ○ ○ “An unfortunate incident” Lessons for employers and employees alike Management needs to communicate with their employees regularly Employees need to voice their complaints through appropriate channels
  • 18. Reactions Government ● MOM held a press release on 27 Nov, classifying the case as an ‘illegal strike’ and stating that the bus drivers involved will be dealt with according to the law
  • 19. Reactions Media ● Garnered both local and international attention ● All media paid particular attention to the fact that the bus drivers were from China Local media ● Different angles to the story ○ Straits Times stated that SMRT should have “managed labour grievances better” ○ Channel NewsAsia praised SMRT officers for being professional ● However, there was a consensus that the strikes were illegal
  • 20. Reactions International Media ● Observed Singapore’s strict governance and commented on the influx of foreign workers ○ Guardian and Wall Street Journal: xenophobic undertones regarding the government and public’s responses to these strikes ○ Bloomberg News and Wall Street Journal: highlighted Singapore’s increasing reliance on foreign labour and how the strikes might strain the country’s foreign relations
  • 21. Reactions Chinese Media ● Was generally silent about the issue but the few news websites that covered it openly criticised Singapore for being too strict with its foreign workers ○ China Daily, the largest English-language daily newspaper circulated in China, described SMRT as “insensitive” because workers have not been able to voice their opinions, despite the company’s “insistence” of an open-door communication. ○ The English version of Xinhua, China’s official press agency, implied that Singapore’s stringent laws made it “very difficult to have a strike illegally”
  • 22. Reactions Public ● Largely supportive of the government’s handling of the strike (76%) ● 44% felt that the government could take some time to verify the facts before establishing the incident as an ‘illegal strike’ ● On social media websites, most of the users’ reactions were inclined towards criticising the bus drivers for being ungrateful
  • 23. Source: Adapted from The Straits Times, from http: //www.straitstimes. com/breakingnews/singapore/story/smrtbus-drivers-strike-ntucsays-it-supportsgovernments-action-20121 Some commenters were rather impartial
  • 24. Source: Adapted from SMRT (Feedback)’s Twitter page, from https://twitter.com/smrtsg Source: Adapted from YouTube.com, from http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=vkZyqzRov_8 Commenters who were largely supportive of the government’s decision to prosecute the bus drivers
  • 25. Consequences ● Four bus drivers Gao Yue Qiang, Liu Xiangying, Wang Xianjie and He Jun Ling were sentenced to jail term from six to seven weeks for instigating an illegal strike ● 29 other bus drivers who participated in the strike had their work permits evoked and were deported back to China ● 150 were issued police warnings for their involvement in the mass strike ● On Dec 2012, a fifth bus driver Bao Feng Shan was charged and sentenced to six weeks in jail for participating in initiating the strike.
  • 26. Endeavors SMRT ● In Mar 13, NTWU and SMRT issued a joint press release announcing a wage revision and improvements to the remuneration packages for bus drivers
  • 27. Endeavors Government ● Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong brought up the strikes during the 2013 May Day Rally speech ○ Government “will not tolerate illegal industrial action or any party that tries to undermine industrial harmony”.
  • 28. Endeavors Government ● The Land Transport Authority (LTA) reported in October 2013 that it will improve employees’ wellbeing by building amenities in new and existing bus interchanges ○ Upcoming bus interchanges in Yishun, Marina South, Hougang and Jurong East will have upgraded facilities ■ Larger staff lounges, kitchens in canteens and dedicated staff toilets
  • 29. Endeavors Trade Unions ● NTUC mass recruited SMRT China national bus drivers, resulting in a 70% increase in SMRT Chinese bus driver members from the previous 5%
  • 30. Discussion Questions 1. Identify SMRT’s stakeholders and categorise them according to their salience with regards to the strikes 2. Evaluate the communication tactics by (i) the government, (ii) SMRT and (iii) the trade unions. Suggest what they could have done differently or what more could they have done to better communicate with their stakeholders.
  • 31. Discussion Questions 3. After the incident, SMRT decides to address their bus drivers. As SMRT’s spokesperson, you are tasked to draft a ‘speech’. You need to consider: a. Who will be the one speaking to our bus drivers? b. Which medium should we use to reach out to our bus drivers? c. How can we address employees from different countries and ensure that they can be harmonious in the speech? d. What will we say to them to improve the morale of our bus drivers?
  • 32. References Boey, A. (2012, November 30). SMRT President & CEO Desmond Kuek Meets Service Leaders. In SMRT News Desk. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from http://www.mynewsdesk.com/sg/smrt/pressreleases/smrt-president-ceo-desmond-kuek-meets-service-leaders-895380 Boey, D. (2012, December 9). A cry for help: Strike by SMRT China-born bus drivers reviewed from a crisis communications and staff relations perspective. In Senang Diri. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://kementah.blogspot.sg/2012/12/a-cry-for-help-strike-bysmrt-china.html Chen, J. (2012, December 8). Why Chinese drivers went on strike in Singapore. In Xinhua Net. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2012-12/08/c_132027867.htm Chun, H. W. (2013, August 31). Singapore Strike: The Full Story. In The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/08/31/singapore-strike-the-full-story/ Constitution of the National Trades Union Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.ntuc.org.sg/UP2/article/Article3% 20-%20Objects.pdf Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (Chapter 67). (2000, July 1). In Attorney-General's Chambers Singapore. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22a0f19883-86d3-46d3-8f9217c578f590cd%22%20Status%3Apublished%20Depth%3A0;rec=0 Government of Singapore. (2012, November 27). Remarks by Acting Minister for Manpower Mr Tan Chuan-Jin on the Illegal Strike by SMRT Bus Drivers. In Ministry of Manpower Press Releases. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.mom.gov. sg/newsroom/Pages/PressReleasesDetail.aspx?listid=465 Ismail, S. (2013, April 20). Officers acted professionally in dealing with SMRT drivers’ petition and illegal strike: Tan Chuan-Jin. In Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/officers-acted/645004.html
  • 33. References NTUC. (n.d.). National Transport Workers' Union: Vision and Mission. In National Transport Workers' Union. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.ntwu.org.sg/wps/portal/ntwu/home/home.aboutus/aboutntwu/! ut/p/a1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOJDHP09Xd08jAwsTI0sDTxDPL3CjNw8jcwcjYAKIoEKDHAARwNCsP1o8BK8JhQkBthkO6oqAgA7SRt1A!!/dl5/d5/L2dJ NTUC claims credit for unionising SMRT PRC bus drivers. (2013, April 6). In The Real Singapore: Voices of average Singaporeans. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://therealsingapore.com/content/ntuc-claims-credit-unionising-smrt-prc-bus-drivers Siddique, H. (2012, November 28). Singapore's first strike in 25 years shines spotlight on racial tensions. In The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/28/chinese-bus-drivers-strike-singapore Sim, F. (2012, November 30). Singapore bus driver strike makes world news. In Yahoo! News Singapore. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://sg.news.yahoo.com/singapore-bus-driver-strike-makes-world-news-104247497.html Singapore jails bus drivers for inciting strikes. (2013, February 25). In BBC News Asia. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.bbc. co.uk/news/world-asia-21571053 Singapore Prime Minister's 2013 May Day Rally Speech. (2013, August 29). In WSJ Live: Top News. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://online.wsj.com/article/5624B752-D801-4A50-873D-28BE79BEE366.html#!5624B752-D801-4A50-873D-28BE79BEE366 SMRT bus driver strike (n.d.). In Straits Times: The Big Story. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.straitstimes. com/smrt_bus_driver_dispute SMRT bus drivers' strike: NTUC says it supports Government's action. (2012, November 27). In Straits Times: Breaking News. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/smrt-bus-drivers-strike-ntuc-says-it-supportsgovernments-action-20121
  • 34. References SMRT Corporation Ltd. (n.d.). Our Businesses. In SMRT. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.smrt.com. sg/AboutSMRT/Overview/OurBusinesses.aspx SMRT Corporation Ltd. (2013, June 6). Shareholding Statistics. In SMRT. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.smrt.com. sg/AboutSMRT/InvestorRelations/ShareholderInformation/ShareholdingStatistics.aspx SMRT Corporation Ltd. (2012, November 30). Update of SMRT service leaders: SMRT president & CEO Desmond Kuek meets service leaders. In Current News: 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.smrt.com.sg/Portals/0/PDFs/About% 20SMRT/Newsroom/2012/SMRT%20Media%20Release%20-%20Update%20on%20SMRT%20Service%20Leaders%20-%20SMRT% 20Management%20Meets%20Service%20Leaders%20from%20China% SMRT Corporation Ltd. (2013, March 7). SMRT aligns staff incentives to productivity, safety and customer service: Company Inks revised Collective Agreement with NTWU for Progressive and Responsive Wage System. In Current News: 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.smrt.com.sg/Portals/0/PDFs/About%20SMRT/Newsroom/2009/SMRT-NTWU%20joint%20media%20release%207% 20March%202013.pdf SMRT wage protest: Chinese bus drivers’ illegal strike saga. (2013, February 25). In xinmsn news. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //news.xin.msn.com/en/smrt-wage-protest-chinese-bus-drivers%E2%80%99-illegal-strike-saga?page=3#image=1 Strike [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Oxford University Press. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.oxforddictionaries. com/definition/english/strike Tan, J. (2012, November 26). SMRT bus drivers' strike illegal: Tan Chuan Jin. In Yahoo! News Singapore. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://sg.news.yahoo.com/-over-100-chinese-bus-drivers-in-s-pore-go-on-strike-105924025.html Tan, J. (2013, April 5). Former SMRT bus driver: Why we went on strike (Part 1). In Yahoo! News Singapore. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://news.yahoo.com/former-smrt-bus-driver--why-we-went-on-strike--part-1--135100687.html
  • 35. References Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited. (2013). About Temasek - Corporate Governance. In Temasek. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //www.temasek.com.sg/abouttemasek/corporategovernance Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited. (2013). About Temasek - Corporate Profile. In Temasek. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //www.temasek.com.sg/abouttemasek/corporateprofile Trade Disputes Act (Chapter 331). (1987, March 30). In Attorney-General's Chambers Singapore. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http: //statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22e7cd017b-6259-4fbd-ac9f-59664543f2e9%22% 20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0 Trade Unions Act (Chapter 333). (2004, July 31). In Attorney-General's Chambers Singapore. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http: //statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/printView.w3p;page=0;query=CompId%3A5ff54821-0429-4b04-8efe-ed3975ed9043;rec=0 Volunteer Writing Team. (2013, March 31). SMRT drivers' strike - a stand for dignity. In Transient Workers Count 2. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://twc2.org.sg/2013/03/31/smrt-drivers-strike-a-stand-for-dignity/ Woo, S. B. (2013, October 21). Better amenities in store for bus drivers. In Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/better-amenities-in-store/854738.html Xinhua. (2012, December 3). Chinese bus driver gets 6-week sentence in Singapore. In China Daily. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http: //www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2012-12/03/content_15980408.htm Yeo, G.L., & Ee, J. (2008, March 11). China bus drivers hired as few S'poreans keen on job. In AsiaOne News. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20080311-53708.html