The bus drivers from China who have ceased work in Singapore are staging an illegal strike and will be dealt with according to law. This was stated by Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin today.
I wonder what discussions are taking place behind the scenes between the Chinese embassy and the Singapore government.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported yesterday:
The Chinese Embassy in Singapore said it has been in close contact with Singapore authorities over the incident.
The Chinese authorities are used to dealing with labour unrest, but there has been no incident like this in Singapore for a long time. The last major strike in Singapore was by port workers in 1986.
Strikes are illegal for workers in essential services, which include public transport, unless they give their employers 14 days’ notice, the minister said.
The government views incidents like this very seriously, he added.
Both local and international media had avoided using the word “strike” so far, reporting instead the bus drivers had refused to go to work or not shown up for duty.
The Chinese bus drivers are aggrieved because they are paid less than the Singaporean and Malaysian drivers. The transport operator SMRT, however, says it provides accommodation for the Chinese and not for the others. But the Chinese, who are lodged in dormitories, are unhappy about their living conditions also.
The strike continued for the second day today with 67 Chinese drivers not reporting for work. Some of them, however, had “valid medical reasons”, SMRT said. A total of 102 drivers from China had refused to go to work yesterday. So some have returned to duty.