News

SMEs hardest hit

By: CHAI HUNG YIN

The strike by Malaysian bus drivers yesterday to protest against the new toll charges affected businesses in Singapore.

Among those hardest hit were the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, Mr Kurt Wee, said the biggest impact was on companies that hire a majority of blue collar and administrative workers, such as those in the security, food and beverage, and service industries.

He said: "One security company had 50 security guards who couldn't come in on time. A pest control company had 10 workers who couldn't come in."

Aside from affecting a company's daily operations, the impact on businesses is also psychological, due to the potential instability, he said.

Mr James Tan, who runs a retail business, started receiving calls at 5.30am from his workers, saying they would be late.

ON TENTERHOOKS

Mr Tan, who's in his late 60s, said: "I was on tenterhooks in case more (workers) couldn't turn up.

"When you are stretched to the max and one worker doesn't turn up, your service level falls. Customers must wait another 10 minutes more.

"If the customer is a Singaporean, good luck, they will surely complain."

A regional economist with CIMB Research, Mr Song Seng Wun, said that if the strike was a one-off event, the economic impact is likely to be negligible.

"If the demonstration has ended and traffic has normalised, there should be minimum impact on Singapore's economy," he said.

But the situation warrants monitoring to determine if it was a one-off expression of unhappiness or if it is going to be a regular event, he said.

If it happens more often, there could be delays in project completion due to disruption on the manufacturing supply chain.

This, in turn, could have an effect on the manufacturing sector.

Mr Wee said that businesses can protect themselves, building resilience by having a bigger local workforce capacity.

"The strike is a reminder to build up productivity and reduce reliance on foreign workers," he said.