On 7 March, WP MP Png raised the issue of companies hiring an increasing number of foreign crane operators in Parliament. The current ruling is that 4 new foreign crane operators can be employed by a company for every 1 new local crane operator it hires and trains.
At a Meet-The-People session, Png was informed that companies have been exploiting this loophole. The constituent also told his MP that salaries were depressed by foreign crane operators and “many of his operator friends are unable to secure full time work”, some working “only 2 times a week”. A letter with a list of names of 46 tower crane operators pleading for help was handed to Png. In Singapore, most people tend to suffer silently and will only highlight an issue when they have reached the ‘buay tahan’ level.
This sad state of affairs could have been prevented if not for the lack of planning. The government had first underbuilt public housing and caused prices to escalate. When it belatedly realised this, it decided to build 200,000 residential units within 4 years on top of hundreds of offices, industrial buildings and shopping malls. The requirement for crane operators was somehow not taken into account.
It’s like looking for the toilet roll after commencing the process of excretion.
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Since most building constructions require crane operators, and there was a huge shortage, MND Minister Khaw had to step in to ‘provide free advertisement’ for the industry, courtesy of our very low ranking media. link Khaw said: “This is a good job with attractive remunerations” where “new crane operators can take home $4,000 a month including overtime pay and allowances, with more senior operators getting $6,000 to $7,000”.
It is strange that a minister had to be involved in the process of attracting job applicants.
The number of crane operators cannot be suka suka ramped up as if playing the game of SimCity. As to be expected, the haphazard planning resulted in a number of crane accidents last year. The Telegraph City Hall crane accident 61 companies flout crane safety rules
If being a crane operator “is a good job with attractive remunerations” as Khaw had claimed, then why is there a shortage of locals for the job? Are Singaporeans choosy or stupid not to take up a job with prospects of earning up to $7,000?
It appears that many Singaporeans do realise that once the building boom is over, many crane operators will be out of job.
Singaporeans should not merely lap up every word of any politician as the gospel truth. We need data pertaining to the number of Singaporeans who are actually earning “$6000 to $7000”, the working hours and overtime required to “take home $4000 a month” and other benefits.
(Our politicians have a perfect track record of cherry picking unrealistic instances ie a family with a $1000 income can purchase a 2 room HDB flat after a maximum grant of $60,000 (the total number who bought with the maximum grant remains a state secret), link 2 room flat costing “as low as $16,000” HDB (I believe there wasn’t even a unit transacted close to this price, this figure also cannot be revealed), etc.
The government has been employing marketing gimmicks and readers of our mainstream media should be circumspect about incredible claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The 46 tower crane operators who pleaded MP Png for help is probably the tip of the iceberg. By helping these 46 affected crane operators, MP Png would ultimately be helping many others.