Rail workers deserve cheers, not jeers, says Khaw

Rail workers deserve cheers, not jeers, says Khaw
SMRT staff assisting passengers at City Hall MRT Station on alternative transport routes following a breakdown in June. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY
Published: 4:00 AM, September 12, 2017
Updated: 10:44 PM, September 12, 2017

SINGAPORE — Less than two months ago, he took a swipe at the mainstream media’s coverage of train delays linked to trials of the North-South Line’s (NSL) new signalling system. He was roundly criticised by commuters and the online community, who argued that the press was reporting the sentiments on the ground.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that he did so because he felt for the rail workers who invest “so much effort, heart, sweat and tears” into the project.

“The minimum they hope (is that) people would cheer them on, rather than jeer (at) them,” he said in Parliament, in response to a question by Member of Parliament Melvin Yong.

Mr Yong, who is also the National Transport Workers’ Union’s executive secretary, had asked Mr Khaw for an assurance that rail workers’ well-being would continue to be a top priority, as the country aims for high standards of train operations.

Mr Khaw told the House he spends much time with workers “in the trenches, within the tunnels”, and also buys them durians and curry puffs “each time there’s something to celebrate”. Such small gestures made a difference not only to the crew, but also to him.

“I want to satisfy myself that people are not lazing around (and) giving excuses, but (really) putting their hearts and souls into their project, and they do,” he said.

He added that staff morale is key in multi-year rail projects: “If you’re able to keep morale high, I think the success possibility will be high.”

In July, Mr Khaw hit out at the mainstream media midway through a speech at a forum, saying news reports were “unfair to the teams … working their guts out on this re-signalling project”, and that the press had “magnified the problem unfairly”.

He said then: “They think it’s so easy, you know, like holding a pen and writing a few articles, and get the signalling done. I wish it was so simple. If it was so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporters to run the train system.”