SMRT’s Disciplinary Actions : Fair Or Scapegoating?


By: B Goode


Finally the NTUC has decided to assist the two SMRT train drivers to appeal against their sacking for the fatal train accident. An afterthought? Maybe but at least the NTUC has come to its senses after the uproar that the sackings have caused and perhaps agree with the popular opinion that the dismissals are harsh.

We may however argue that getting sacked for causing the death of two people is an appropriate and fair action, but looking at the circumstances of the case, the dismissals smell of scapegoating.

The internal inquiry conducted by SMRT found the accident to have been caused by a series of mistakes made by a group of people. Like the two sacked staff, the others have also been disciplined. But unlike the two, the others were not sacked.

So if an accident was because of a collective failing, why the differing punishment? The argument could be because of the different level of individual culpability. But the person who didn’t ensure that the track was aligned properly, and the person who didn’t get the proper authorisation for the track work, together with the supervisor on site who failed to give a proper look-out, and the driver of course, should all be similarly culpable because the accident would not have happened if all of them were to do their part. We can also throw in those working in the control room and a lot others.

The point is, the accident was due to a collective negligence and all those involved in contributing to the accident should be getting the same dose of medicine.

Should all of them be sacked? If it was due to gross negligence then yes. If not, then of course no. But the concept of equal misery should apply here.

Speaking of culpability, on what basis did the SMRT disciplinary board came when appropriating liability? I asked this because correct me if I am wrong, the Police have yet to conclude their investigations and the coroner inquiry has yet to sit.

So this appears to be a case of the horse arguing with the cart about who should cover whose ass.

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