Great Singapore Traction Company Strike



Strikes and other forms of labour unrest were common in 1950s Singapore. The year 1955 saw 57 cases of labour unrest involving bus company workers, including the Hock Lee bus workers’ strike and riot. That same year, bus workers of the Singapore Traction Company (STC) also carried out a strike.1 Known as the “Great STC Strike”, the 142-day strike was the longest in postwar Singapore.2 For about a month, workers of other public-bus companies also joined in the strike, thus resulting in the paralysis of the public bus system.3

Events
On 14 July 1955, STC workers demanded for wage increment from their British employer, which, if met, would result in an annual loss of £500,000 for the company.4 The demand came after an agreement had been reached in February 1954, which stipulated that no demand for increment was to be made for two years. When STC rejected the demand, the STC Employees Union announced their intention to hold a strike from 27 September 1955.5 In October and November, the chairman of STC travelled from London to negotiate with the union, but the talks failed.6

Determined to paralyse the entire public bus system in Singapore, subversive agitators also created unrest in the other Chinese-owned bus companies, demanding more pay and other benefits. As the companies stood firm against the unions, bus workers picketed at the entrances of bus garages to protest against the “wicked actions of the greedy employers”.As a result, all bus services came to a halt for about a month.8

Countermeasures
To ensure that students could continue to travel between their homes and schools, the government started a free transport service with lorries that were normally used for ferrying workers.9 Adults, on the other hand, had to find alternative transportation, and demand for taxis and pirate taxis surged.10

In November 1955, the government introduced a train service to ease the transport problem. The service, which plied Telok Blangah, Tanglin, Bukit Timah, Bukit Panjang, Kranji and Johor Bahru, cost 15 to 80 cents. However, this service was not popular, and was quietly withdrawn within weeks.11

Then in early January 1956, the Registrar of Vehicles offered short-term licences to the Chinese bus companies to operate services on some of the routes covered by the STC.12

Resolution
On 28 December 1955, the government appointed a court of inquiry to look into the dispute between the STC and the union.13 Both parties agreed to abide by the findings and recommendations of the court of inquiry.14 On 11 February 1956, the findings and recommendations were released, and the union won substantive wage increments for STC’s operational staff.15 Consequently, the workers returned to work on the afternoon of 16 February, which marked the end of the 142-day “Great STC Strike”.16

Timeline
14 Jul 1955: STC Employees Union demands for wage increase from STC’s management.17
12 Sep 1955:
Notice of intention to strike sent by the union to STC.18
27 Sep 1955:
STC employees go on strike.19
11 Oct 1955:
STC chairman meets with the union.20
25 Nov 1955:
Chairman returns to Singapore for direct talks with the union.21

28 Dec 1955: Court of inquiry is appointed.22
3 Jan 1956:
Chinese bus companies starts operating services on some routes covered by STC in the city.23
11 Feb 1956:
Report of the court of inquiry is released.24
15 Feb 1956:
Agreement to end the strike is signed.25
16 Feb 1956:
STC bus workers return to work.26




Author

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia



References
1. Choi, C. C., & Loh, N. (2015, May). Singapore’s bus reform experience. Journeys, 13, 17–28, p. 19. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Land Transport Authority website: https://www.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/pdf/J15May_p18Choi_SingaporeBusReform.pdf
2. STC buses back on the roads. (1956, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Choi, C. C., & Loh, N. (2015, May). Singapore’s bus reform experience. Journeys, 13, 17–28, p. 19. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Land Transport Authority website: https://www.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/pdf/J15May_p18Choi_SingaporeBusReform.pdf
3. Choi, C. C., & Loh, N. (2015, May). Singapore’s bus reform experience. Journeys, 13, 17–28, p. 19. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Land Transport Authority website: https://www.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/pdf/J15May_p18Choi_SingaporeBusReform.pdf; York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 17.
4. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16; Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN)
5. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16; Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN)
6. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 95. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16.
7. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR)
8. Choi, C. C., & Loh, N. (2015, May). Singapore’s bus reform experience. Journeys, 13, 17–28, p. 19. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Land Transport Authority website: https://www.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/pdf/J15May_p18Choi_SingaporeBusReform.pdf
9 York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, pp. 93–94. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 17; 10,000 students ferried. (1955, September 28). Singapore Standard, p. 1; S.T.C buses back on the roads. (1956, February 17). Indian Daily Mail, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); 10,000 students ferried. (1955, September 28). Singapore Standard, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 95. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR)
12. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 17; Suburban buses take over the city routes. (1956, January 5). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN); York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 99. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Buses at last – there will be more today. (1955, December 29). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. STC buses back on the roads. (1956, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 1; S.T.C. buses roll again. (1956, February 16). Singapore Standard, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR)
15. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); S.T.C. – court urges big rises. (1956, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. S.T.C buses back on the roads. (1956, February 17). Indian Daily Mail, p. 1; STC buses back on the roads. (1956, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, pp. 93, 100. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Choi, C. C., & Loh, N. (2015, May). Singapore’s bus reform experience. Journeys, 13, 17–28, p. 19. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Land Transport Authority website: https://www.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/pdf/J15May_p18Choi_SingaporeBusReform.pdf
17. Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN); York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16.
18. Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16.
19. STC buses back on the roads. (1956, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16; Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN)
20. Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16.
21. Singapore. Labour Dept. (1956). Annual report of the Labour Department 1955 [Microfilm no.: NL 9771]. Singapore: The Dept., p. 16.
22. Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.892 SIN)
23. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR)
24. York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR); Singapore. Court of Inquiry. (1956). Report. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 6. (RCLOS 331.892 SIN)
25. STC buses back on the roads. (1956, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. S.T.C buses back on the roads. (1956, February 17). Indian Daily Mail, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses (Vol. 1). Singapore: DTS Publishing, pp. 93, 100. (Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR)



The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
Business enterprises
Transport workers--Labor unions--Singapore
Transportation
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Transportation and logistics
Strikes and lockouts--Transport workers--Singapore
Law and government>>Safety administration>>Land transportation
Great Singapore Traction Company Strike, Singapore, 1955
Labour and employment
The Great Singapore Traction Company Strike, 1955-1956
Business, finance and industry>>Economics>>Labour economics>>Labour unions
Organisations>>Trade Unions
Commerce and Industry>>Transportation