Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Work-life balance

I work in the construction idustry for over 20 Years. The working hours in this industry is known to be mercilessly "anti-social" against employees. I recall when I started work, I had to work a 6 day-week. Monday to Friday, from 8am to 7pm and Saturday, 8am to 5pm. At night there was overtime work, without any OT pay, but a mere "meal allownace". Most employers were either Japanese or Korean MNCs. Even local contractors soon follow such "market" practice.

Quite often overtime works are required despite the long hours. The practice is often to compress salary first and then to pay some ovetime pay. One way was to use "foreigners". I am not sure if they deserved to be called "foreign talents"; for obvious reason that there is still a diifference. During the downturn, ovetime pay was even withdrawn. Hence, it is not worth the long hours worked.

The construction industry employs many foreign employees, beside the general workers. Many signed employment contracts in their home countries, often at lower salaries. Soon local employees are marginalised.

There is weak "union" representation to advocate for more decent woking hours, despite the environmentally unfriendly working environment. As time progresses, only employees of the Developer or Consultants work a 5-day week. Those who work for Contractors continues to work such "anti-sovial" hours.

To hear of the "anti-social" working hours for the teaching profession is not surprising for me. However, teachers belong to a well-represented "union" and is a civil service job. Why does the Government and NTUC allow this profession to deteriororate to such a stage just like what is described in the letter? The teaching profession is supposed to build the "pillars" of the future generation, why do we allow their current status quo to worsen.

Ironically, I knew of an engineer who had left his father's subcontracting firm, without an heir to the business, to join the teaching profession, because of the "anti-social" working hours of the construction industry. I wonder how is he today - Happy or Dis-illusioned?

Reference :
ST Forum
May 15, 2010

Work-life balance? Here's one day in the life of a teacher

I am often told how the Ministry of Education is easing teachers' workload, but I see little evidence of it.

My husband has been teaching in a neighbourhood school for several years. Despite the mantra of work-life balance, I see little of it in the lives of teachers. Here is a typical weekday routine for my husband:

5am: Wake up and prepare for school.

6am: Leave for school.

7am: Arrive at school and perform morning duty (in a sense, 'guard duty').

7.30am to 1pm: Regular teaching duties (including extra games for students who need more exercise during recess, which is part of the Holistic Health Framework that replaced the Trim and Fit scheme).

1 pm to 1.30pm: Prepare for remedial lessons.

1.30pm to 3.30pm: Conduct remedial lessons (my husband's school believes that to improve students' results, remedial lessons must be conducted daily).

3.30pm to 5.30pm: Be present for the co-curricular activities he is in charge of.

5.30pm to 6.30pm: Administrative work like keying in remarks on students for the mid-term report book).

6.30pm to 6.45pm: Pack 36 books and piles of worksheets to take home and mark.

6.45pm to 7.45pm: Travel home.

7.45pm to 8.30pm: Eat dinner and rest.

8.30pm to 1am: Continue with administrative work, such as marking books and worksheets, reviewing examination papers, and preparing programmes for the June school camp and Youth Olympic Games activities.

Weekends are hardly restful. I often ask him if the endless work is because he is singled out. That is not so, he tells me. His colleagues face the same punishing workload.

As I am writing this letter at 10am, my husband has developed a fever. But he is unable to seek medical attention as there is an oral examination in the afternoon.

I understand there is a need to be accountable to students' parents. But in this case, who is answerable to a teacher's family if anything happens to the teacher?

Aishah Quek (Ms)

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