Khaw Boon Wan: Errant SMRT staff 'have tarnished the reputation of Singapore'
Khaw criticises staff responsible for flooding
It was a day to recognise and celebrate the 22,000 men and women who maintain the buses and trains in Singapore's public transport network.
But speaking at the inaugural Public Transport Workers' Appreciation Day yesterday at Bedok Town Square, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan criticised the group of SMRT staff responsible for the tunnel flooding on Oct 7 that disrupted train services along the North-South Line for around 20 hours.
"A small group of SMRT workers had negated the good work of other SMRT workers and brought disrepute to other transport workers," said Mr Khaw.
"They have tarnished the reputation of Singapore and Singaporeans. Oct 7 was not a proud moment for SMRT."
He urged SMRT staff to "dedicate their 100 per cent to their public responsibility to make SMRT train services reliable again" and said the effort required everyone "from chief executive officer down to rank-and-file" to play their part.
"Oct 7 was a day of shame for SMRT. We cannot change the past, but let it be the turning point for SMRT, especially in its journey towards transforming its corporate culture," he said.
Mr Khaw acknowledged that there will be "some black sheep" in every large organisation, and lapses leading to the flooding incident on Oct 7 could happen to other companies too.
He said the job of public transport operators is to identify errant workers, counsel them and give them a chance to shape up.
"What we should not do is to turn a blind eye to their act, or worse, follow them," he added.
Mr Melvin Yong, executive secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union, had previously said that the appreciation event had been planned several months ago and was not held in response to the apparent dissatisfaction among the public over the public transportation system.
During his speech, Mr Khaw recognised the vital work that transport workers perform, with the public transportation network expanding and an increase in the number of commuters taking trains and buses daily.
He said 66 per cent of Singaporeans take public transport daily, and the daily bus and rail rides have increased by 30 per cent to nearly eight million in a period of five years.
Mr Khaw added that the Government is committed to improving the working conditions and training opportunities of transport workers.
These will come in the form of new and upgraded bus depots and interchanges with better staff facilities.