Over the past few weeks, SingPost has come under increasing scrutiny for failing to perform its core job. Not delivering parcels to the doorstep,
leaving delivery notes without knocking, and even throwing letters away without delivering them.
One or two isolated incidents can probably be attributed to individual staff misdemeanor, but a string of incidents lead one to believe that there is something else going on.
Heavy workloads and low pay
As Amirul has succinctly put it, we should appreciate the work put in by our postmen and women. They take their breaks when they can, and deliver backbreaking amounts of mail.
Given the increase in popularity of online shopping, the number of parcels they have to deliver in person, have presumably increased exponentially. In the past, maybe there would be one or two parcels a block. Now, maybe ten to twenty. This difference is huge.
A postman’s median salary, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s Benchmarking Occupational Wages webpage, is $1,540 (based on 2016 figures). At the lower end of the spectrum, they could earn as little as $1,000 a month.
With such low salaries, and difficult working conditions, it is no wonder that SingPost has found it tough to hire locals.
The bigger question. Should public services be privatized?
SingPost’s failure in their core service, as well as the MRT breakdowns in pre-2018, simply show that the privatization of public services does not work. Also, recall the fiasco where public hospitals sought to attract foreign patients, leading to a shortage of beds.
Because they have shareholders to answer to, and CEOs to pay millions to, their attention is shifted away from the core service that their organization was founded to provide. Instead, they now have to ensure KPIs are met, a large number of which are unrelated to their core service.I
In my personal opinion, public services should not be profit driven. They should be a cost to the country. Why?
We all pay taxes. The rich pay more, the poor pay less. Often, the poor use public services (eg. public transport, postal services, and healthcare) more than the rich. To put it bluntly, the rich subsidizes the less-well-off.
As such, while there should not be frivolous spending of public monies, it isn’t right to simply privatize these companies and force them to “find money”, government subsidies or no.
We now have evidence that this model does not work well.
How would a non-privatized SingPost be different?
Right off the bat, postmen would be civil servants, with access to more reasonable pay and benefits. Sure, it would be at a greater cost to the governement, but they wouldn’t need to pay the CEO 2 million dollars a year.
This sum, split across 3,000 (estimated) postmen, would mean each would receive an additional $55 a month. Don’t forget, we still haven’t counted the savings from not paying a board of directors.
Off-tangent: The recent opening up of the electricity market seems to be another push to further privatize a public service, one that may not benefit consumers in the long run. We shall see.