DEPUTY Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has pointed out the trade-offs inherent in the labour situation where essential services are concerned.
"There will always be a need for more than we may be able to provide ourselves. But as we raise the wages of bus drivers, particularly Singapore bus drivers, and also foreign bus drivers, we have to understand there has to be an impact on the costs of running the system," he said, according to a report by Channel NewsAsia.
"Whether it's the bus service, whether it's conservancy and maintenance, whether it's in the water department, whatever - that has an impact on costs because manpower is a major component of costs."
Mr Teo was speaking on the sidelines of a community event yesterday morning.
According to the Channel NewsAsia report, Mr Teo expressed the belief that the providers of essential services would want to hire as many Singaporeans as possible by offering higher salaries.
But there will always be a limit to the number of Singaporeans who will take up such jobs, he said.
His remarks come at the tail-end of a week that has seen the spotlight thrown on the issue of foreign workers and compensation.
Following an illegal strike by Chinese bus drivers at SMRT, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew signalled earlier this week that bus fares might have to increase to take into account the need to raise the wages of bus drivers.
"The fare adjustment that is due to take place next year will hopefully . . . allow the two operators to have more resources in time to come to make further salary adjustments to their drivers," Mr Lui had said.
"We recognise that the drivers need to be paid more. The question is: where is that money coming from?"
The bus driver strike incident was followed in quick succession by a nine-hour wage protest atop a crane by two Chinese construction workers on Thursday, and a dispute that almost escalated into a sit-in at a worksite by a disgruntled Chinese worker on Friday - the third such labour-related incident within a fortnight.