I’m glad that the four FT PRC drivers that are facing charges for instigating an illegal strike are going to get help from some civic-minded lawyers.
Following the guilty plea by one driver who it seems had no lawyer to advise him, I was dismayed.
I had heard via Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole that the PRC FT drivers had never ever been briefed on the labour law here: particularly that there was a procedure to be followed before striking. And that SMRT has no documentary evidence that it ever briefed its FT drivers.
So when I read that one driver had pleaded guilty, I tot it was unlikely that these issues, assuming they were true, or even probable would be raised in public by the drivers.
Now that the remaining four charged drivers have legal advice, if these allegations are probable, they would be raised, in mitigation.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. But ignorance of the law particularly when it is in a foreign language should be taken into consideration when passing sentence: especially if the employer did not brief its FT employees about the legal process involved in taking industrial action.
As to whether SMRT could have been so dysfunctional as not to brief its FT drivers on labour law, fact is that its HR department is pretty dysfunctional. “MOM [Ministry of Manpower”] said it has reiterated to SMRT that labour and contractual grievances raised by the workers should be a priority and addressed quickly.” And after all, SMRT only introduced the following after the strike:
— “[T]old its drivers at the sessions that it has set up a 24-hour hotline for drivers to call if they have concerns or grievances”; and
— “They have also appointed liaison officers who can speak Mandarin to deal directly with the drivers, said SMRT.”
Avoid the stock especially as SMRT’s focus on profit is one of the many factors why SMRT has been facing problems, according to its CEO Desmond Kuek. If the CEO talks like this, you can be pretty sure good dividend payouts are not one of his KPIs.