SINGAPORE Nov 29 Four mainland Chinese bus
drivers were charged in Singapore on Thursday with inciting a
strike by dozens of drivers that highlighted tension about an
influx of immigrants and the treatment of foreign workers in the
wealthy financial centre.
The walkout this week by the drivers from China, over pay
disparities and conditions at their dormitory, was the first
major strike in tightly regulated Singapore in more than 25
years. It was mostly over by Wednesday.
Singapore, an ethnic Chinese-majority island with no minimum
wage, prohibits workers in public transport and other essential
services from taking industrial action without giving notice 14
days in advance.
The four men from China men were arrested on Wednesday and
Thursday for the offence of instigating or inciting an illegal
strike, the police said in a statement.
They were formally charged on Thursday, media reported,
saying court documents showed the alleged ringleader incited his
colleagues in an online message titled "The insults and
humiliation suffered by Singapore drivers".
If convicted, the men face a maximum fine of S$2,000
($1,600) and/or a sentence of up to a year in prison.
In a statement, China's Commerce Ministry said it is "paying
very close attention to this labour dispute".
It said it "hopes related parties will properly handle and
respond positively to the reasonable demands of Chinese drivers
to be paid the same wages for doing the same work and be treated
fairly, and protect the legal rights of Chinese workers."
Strikes of any kind are rare in the city-state, where the
long-ruling government keeps a tight lid on labour unrest that
might deter investors. At the same time, it must contend with a
shortage of lower-skilled labour and address the anger of many
Singaporeans about the number of immigrants.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin said this week he
expected bus, train and taxi operator SMRT Corp Ltd,
controlled by state investor Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd,
to address the grievances but that there was "zero tolerance for
such unlawful action" by the Chinese drivers.
($1 = 1.2233 Singapore dollars)
(Additional reporting by Hui Li in BEIJING; Editing by Robert