TL;DR – Not-very-fun fact: We do not have enough people… let alone enough people to work.
Day 2 of Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO).
It looks like the 24-hour notice was enough for Singapore to make some quick decisions and for businesses to scrambled together some housing arrangements for their Malaysian workers so that life can go on as normally as possible for all of us here in Singapore.
You see, some 300,000 Malaysians cross the Causeway every day to work in Singapore. Some of them in essential services like public transport.
I remember reading somewhere that we’ve about 2,500 bus captains across the four bus companies.
Phew! The tripartite partners – Government, employers and unions – came together to work something out such that mots of these bus captains have been arranged to stay in Singapore for the 14–day MCO to continue their work.
Curious where the bus captains were put up?
Check out NTUC MP Melvin Yong’s Facebook post.
Yong, who is also the Executive Secretary at the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU), visited the bus captains from SMRT and Tower Transit who are put up at Genting Hotel Jurong.
SBS Transit’s bus captain, Joe Lim, also put up photos of his accommodation on Facebook. In his post, he said this regarding the Malaysia lockdown,
For the bus captains who travel to and fro the Causeway every day, we were at a complete loss when we heard the news. On our minds were our work, our family, our lodging. Thankfully, the company lent a helping hand during this difficult time. Other than arranging for us to stay at a good-class hotel during this period, the company also arranged for transportation to take us to the hotel. On top of that, there’s also a daily allowance of $20 for all the Malaysian bus captains who have chosen to stay in Singapore to continue working.
Although I did not receive this benefit personally since I live in Singapore, I feel very happy for my colleagues. The fact that the company shows such care for the bus captains also makes me very proud to be a SBS bus captain.
With much thanks for the company’s arrangement; appreciate it.
Yet another SBS Transit driver, Bentley Lew, also posted on Facebook,
Lockdown. I scurried to Singapore without even extra underwear. I had originally thought I’d end up having to sleep rough on the streets, but to my surprise, the company put me up at a five-star hotel! I am so touched I’m about to cry! I vow to never leave a company that is this good!!! I love you, SBS Transit!!!
While the bus captains seem happy with the arrangement and are in high spirits, there have been some murmurs in some quarters. Yes, among Singaporeans, some people are questioning the Government’s decision to give the $50 accommodation allowance to help companies house the affected Malaysian workers.
The usual rhetoric,
Why is the Government giving money to the foreigners instead of helping Singaporeans?
- The support is only to Singapore-based employers.
- It’s temporary relief – up to 14 days – while they sort out staff manning and accommodation.
- This is especially important for sectors and businesses in essential services that hire many Malaysian workers, e.g. public transport.
Our Minister for Manpower, Mrs Josephine Teo, also explained the decision through a Facebook post yesterday.
She’d explained how if these Malaysians “can no longer cross the border to work, many essential services provided to Singaporeans will be affected. These include waste disposal, estate cleaning, public bus driving, keeping our supermarkets stocked, care of our elderly in nursing homes.”
“For other employers, business could also be disrupted. If that happens, even their local employees will be at risk.”
Minister Teo shared that she had received emails asking why we are giving foreigners money to stay in Singapore and said that is not the correct understanding.
- The workers may also be Singaporean, but have no accommodation in Singapore.
- The help goes to the employers not the worker, because they are responsible for ensuring proper housing.
- The workers are here providing essential services to us and helping to keep our companies going; they are away from family and should have a decent place to stay.
But I think this viral post explained the issue even better.
$50 a day – why this is important
If you are wondering why the government is “generously” offering $50 a day to accommodate Malaysian workers in Singapore, this is why:
Firstly – the $50 a day is paid to firms. To help them tahan the problem. This money is then paid to Singaporean hotels/hostels/landlords. What’s wrong with that?
Now… let’s look at the worker issue:
1) There are some 300k Malaysians working here. If they cannot find an alternative, they will be shut out of Singapore. Then who want to do their work? You ah? Fact: We do not have enough people… let alone enough people to work.
2) If these Malaysian workers don’t return to work – sure die. Rubbish will be left uncleaned. Transport will slow down. Everything from trains to street lamps will be unmaintained. No waiters, cooks and chefs to make you food. Worse – no durian to sell to you. You all Singaporean want to do this kind of job meh? You all only want to be manager and executive leh.
3) What follows after that, is Singapore will be royally screwed. We won’t be able to function as normal. Some businesses that completely rely on Malaysians, then cannot find staff to replace – they will shut down.
4) “Oh but Singaporeans now can get the job”, some of you say. Eh hallo – if companies can hire Singaporeans, you think they want to go through all the trouble to go and hire a foreigner meh? You know how much paperwork there is? The difference in wage is not much either – the salary just looks lower because of the nature of the job.
Finally, the Malaysians are not just “foreigners”. They are connected to us very deeply, through both time and even blood. We were once the same country. We have a strong economy, they don’t. They help us, we help them back in this time of need.
Don’t forget, the virus is a short-term problem… the monster problem after this is the economic fallout. Those of us who are short-sighted, better get a pair of spectacles and see the problem standing not too far on the horizon. With large-scale global job losses, financial crashes and supply shortages… that is 1000% more scary than the coronavirus.