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Meeting Melvin Yong in the tunnel of love

5 months ago / ntuc / worklifesg

Yup, Saturday night live with Melvin Yong.

So a couple of weeks back, I had the most exciting Saturday night OF MY LIFE.

To quote my friend, I went into the tunnel of lurvveeeee with Melvin, as in, Labour MP Melvin Yong.

Saturday night from 11pm to 3am, exciting not? I also think it's very exciting lol.

But ok, on a more serious note, this was one of his regular scheduled site visits to the SBST P-Way team in the NEL tunnel to find out more about the work our rail maintenance crew does each night to keep our public rail transportation running smoothly in Singapore... and I was there, erm, to observe too.

You can read his blog post (ya, he also blogger lol...) The Real (Rail) Unseen Heroes here about his experience - and yes, he so punny, I like!

Setting off after the last train at 12:04AM so pardon my Bob-the-Builder esque look

So how was MY experience?

I'm going to sound like a brat but I can tell you it was not at all easy for me. And ALL I had to do was to stand around and WATCH the workers work. And occasionally take a few photos.

It was hot, it was stuffy, I had to stand the entire time. There wasn't much fresh air, I alternated between feeling claustrophobic and being sleepy... at one point I almost fell asleep standing.

Well, these workers have it much harder of course.

They had to work in tough conditions (let me get there in a bit) and with super pressurising time sensitivity.

Timing Constraints

Maintenance work can only be done between 1.00am and 4.30am, after the last train and before the first train basically. Which means they have to chop chop by hook or by crook get work completed in that 3 hours.

Challenging Work Environment

Apart from the warm and stuffy conditions (I was feeling really light-headed at some points of the visit), those who do maintenance for the above-ground LRT tracks also have to put up with working with HANDHELD FLASHLIGHTS (because it's in the residential estates hence no bright lights allowed) and get this, verbal and physical abuse from the residents who actually THROW EGGS at them wtf when they do their work. Like Hello, how do you think your train gets YOU to work in the morning ah?

And you think your deadlines are tough...

Being stuck in the tunnel with Melvin for close to 4 hours also made me understand the man better.

He's super dedicated to the public transport worker he serves - this is not the only visit he does by the way. He's that walk the talk kinda guy - always taking public transport, making visits to various train depots and tracks and spending time with our bus captains every week to find out more about the different job roles when it comes to public transport and how he can make things better.

(Actually I can find A LOT more posts about his visits but I decided to keep it to his recent few...You can see more at his Facebook page.)

In fact throughout the entire visit, he kept going back to one point - How can we enhance work productivity? How can we use technology to make their jobs smarter and more age-friendly?

Additionally, he has also thought about how we can better the lives of these rail maintenance workers. Such as the need for a holistic review of their working conditions and perhaps an annual health screening for these workers. In his words,

We cannot take our workers’ health for granted. A healthy worker is a happy worker, and a happy worker is a better worker.

He also mentioned the importance of attracting, retaining and appreciating these unseen heroes. Not just about fluffy awards but actual tangible efforts such as acclimatising newcomers to the stressful and fast-paced work environment and how we can help prepare the newcomers in their jobs... perhaps with a stronger mentorship programme? He cites how newcomers with the Hong Kong MTR are put through a three-year structured mentorship programme whereas ours here ranges from three months to six months.

There was no TV crew on standby to capture his every move so there wasn't a need to "hem it for the camera" but he was walking around, talking to the various workers, trying to understand their jobscopes cause he really wanted to.

At the end of the night, as we climbed up 3 flights of stairs to get out of the station, I felt like I had just conquered Everest... while he was still all charged up.

(Did I mention that he had JUST returned from Hong Kong that evening?)

So in all, what's my takeaway?

That 1) I'm not cut out at all to take on the tough job of a rail maintenance worker (one day on the job only I already want to die!) and 2) It takes someone with a lot of passion and dedication.... and stamina to be a Labour MP with the National Transport Workers' Union or NTWU.

Some jobs, cannot wayang one.