TL;DR – We need a RSM.
At the PAP Convention 2017 last Sunday, PM Lee finally spoke about the many disruptions that plagued our MRT system. He acknowledged that people are understandably frustrated. He highlighted that improving train reliability is a very complicated problem and the organisations need to be strengthened to deliver consistent high performance.
PM Lee also pointed out that it will take time to improve the train system, and there will be more hurdles to clear along the way.
One of those hurdles is the deep-seated cultural problems that SMRT’s CEO Desmond Kuek mentioned.
Recently someone posted a thread on Reddit suggesting that the deep-seated cultural problems is far worse than most of us would have thought. The person claimed to be a staff in SMRT. He made a few rather alarming claims about the attitude and behaviour of the rank and file staff of SMRT.
Some SMRT staff really CMI
According to the Reddit post, some SMRT rank-and-file staff are “lazy and complacent”. They don’t follow SOP. They don’t do the necessary checks. The post said:
“Why must check XYZ every hour? Check if this thing locked? No need lah, won’t happen one. Limpeh work for 25 years NEVER happen, don’t worry!”
And apparently the situation is getting worse. The post went on to say:
“Some of my colleagues, who working in station, go sleep for like a few hours every shift. Sleep, play games or even just lepak. Some are still hardworking, even though they sleep, but some really cmi. One station the aircon went out, the SM (station master) did not deploy fans, because want to sleep.”
Wow. Paid to work, but in the end sleep on the job? No wonder our train system is in such a sorry state and is a laughing stock!
Some deeds are downright criminal
If you think that’s bad, there’s more. The Reddit post went on to “explain” why LTA decided to get all train stations to go cashless by 2020:
“Because station staff always “borrow” money from the PSC cash drawer to buy lunch/dinner/groceries and then they either: lie on the cash report or they blame other staff for the shortage. That is what I suspect is true reason and there was this incident in the news where the Tanah Merah SM stole $20k from the PSC (passenger service counters).”
Why are these staff not punished? What’s stopping the management from sacking those slackers, drain the swamp, and correct the culture?
We’re part of the problem
You see, every time there’s any problem, we blame the CEO and the top management. As the post went on to explain:
“Because every time got problem, CEO and top management, those university educated people, get the blame. They all attend the conferences and kena sai from public. We all are the ones who did it, but we never kena… most of the time, our uncle Desmond and Khaw take the blame. We all don’t.”
Those slackers apparently collude with their supervisors, who is one of their friends who rose through the ranks. And if any of the slackers feel that they might be sacked, they will threaten to go on social media “and shame SMRT and their million dollar management for firing someone who is working very hard to feed his family”.
And you know what? There are enough social justice warriors in Singapore who will lap up those stories. The post elaborated:
“Oppo figures also repost, because can use for politics and shame government. Win win right? But commuters never win, the lazy staff will get the job back through pressure by public.”
The post does sound like a rant. And we can’t be certain if anything in the post is true. But if even any part of it is true, even in the slightest, then it does shed some light on how our train system got into the sorry state it is in today.
We need an RSM in charge of SMRT
It also suggests why a gentle and gentlemanly general is probably the wrong person to fix this situation. Different units and parts of the army can be completely different animals. I wonder if Desmond Kuek came from a place where people are a little too gentlemanly. Yes, you know, too soft? If Desmond Kuek’s that sort, then he won’t be able to deal with the sort of slackers described in the Reddit post. They don’t respond to reason or polite appeals to cooperate or mend their ways. For that kind of slackers, you need someone commanding, demanding and even uncouth. Someone bordering on being unreasonable.
Yes, someone like a RSM.
For those of you who haven’t done NS, an RSM is the regimental sergeant major. He’s the guy in charge of discipline in the army. In that task, he is single-minded. He will do whatever it takes to whip his men into shape. If they slip up, he will whack them jialat jialat until they buck up.