SINGAPORE: Four former SMRT bus drivers have been jailed for inciting and participating in last November’s illegal bus strike.
He Jun Ling, 32 was sentenced to seven weeks’ jail due to greater culpability while Gao Yue Qiang, 32, Liu Xiangying, 33, and Wang Xian Jie, 39, were sentenced to six weeks’ jail each.
The four pleaded guilty on Monday. They were arrested by the police in November 2012 for inciting and participating in the illegal strike and had earlier claimed trial with trial dates set for March.
However on Friday, the four men’s lawyers said their clients’ decision to plead came after prosecution gave an indication of the various sentencing options.
On November 26 last year, 171 SMRT bus drivers failed to report for duty in a protest over pay and living conditions.
Eighty—eight of them stayed away from work the next day.
In December 2012, a SMRT bus driver, Bao Feng Shan, 38, also from China, was sentenced to six weeks’ jail for taking part in the same illegal strike.
In giving his oral grounds for decision, Senior District Judge See Kee Oon said public transport is an essential service and that although the four men’s conduct was motivated by their grievances, their plea of guilt indicated that they knew they ought not to have taken the law into their own hands.
The judge said the aggravating factor was that they put pressure on SMRT to give in to their demands.
He said the move had the potential to affect the daily lives of all who relied on public transport.
Apart from online chat, the four men also made personal visits to fellow Chinese bus drivers.
While the judge noted that the defence lawyers argued that the key here was the failure to submit the notice before going on strike, he said "ignorance of the law cannot excuse them entirely".
He added that while the situation may well have been better handled by their former employer SMRT, the court is not the platform to address this, much less the perceived shortcomings on the employer’s part.
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