Latest CNNGo.com "Say What? with mrbrown" column: Singapore is a nation of complainers
As Singaporeans read about yet another strike by the London subway workers, we reflect on the fact that this would never happen in Singapore. Our media relishes showing the strikes and chaos in other countries to remind us how lucky we are.
Tripartite: A tricky term
In contrast, our public transport system runs like clockwork and our workers, well, we don't know the meaning of the word "strike" or for that matter, the meaning of the word "union."
Most unions in Singapore are in what the government calls a "tripartite" relationship with the government and the business owners. If you asked a Singaporean what "tripartite" means, they will mutter something about the unions being also a part of the government.
Regardless of whether you consider the union situation in Singapore "tripartite" or just "cozy buddies," it does create a strike-free system so that regular Joes can take the train every morning, knowing that it is unlikely to stop working just because subway workers are disgruntled yet again.
In fact, if our subway stops, it is likely due to things like upgrading. Some stations were closed over the weekend for upgrading and over the long term, our Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong tells us that upgrading the switching system will cost up to S$1 billion (US$715 million). The old switching system only allows trains to be, at most, two minutes apart, and the new one will let trains come one minute apart.
Then Mr Goh went on to say that the cost may not be passed down to commuters directly, but it has to be defrayed. At that point, every Singaporean gulped, and unconsciously touched their wallets and purses, because we know what that means.
The operative words were "MAY not be passed down" and "defrayed." In other words, somehow, some way, someone has to pay. (cont'd)