SINGAPORE: A SMRT bus driver from China has been sentenced to six weeks’ jail for taking part in an illegal strike.
Bao Feng Shan, 38, admitted that he committed the offence on 26 November.
He appeared grim in court on Monday, as the charge was read out to him in Mandarin, accusing him of "commencing" the strike between 6am and 7am on 26 November at Woodlands Dormitory.
Bao, who did not engage a lawyer, acknowledged the "adverse effects" of the strike.
Speaking through a court interpreter, he said he was "deeply remorseful and apologetic".
Bao, who teared several times, also apologised to the government of Singapore, SMRT and his family.
He said a jail sentence would have adverse effects on his eight—year—old daughter.
Bao was deployed to Kranji Depot to drive Service 106 at the time of the offence.
The tall and bespectacled man had been working for SMRT since 2008.
Some time between 6am and 7am on 26 November, he joined many drivers in refusing to go to work.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Peggy Pao told the court that Bao was not happy that he was not entitled to the same year—end bonuses and increments as his Malaysian counterparts.
He did not give notice of his intention to strike on 26 and 27 November.
The court heard that Bao did not start the strike, but took on a participatory role.
But DPP Pao pointed out that although Bao was not charged as an instigator, he was "far from a mere passive participant".
She acknowledged that there may have been "a genuine sense of frustration" but stressed that there was no justification to resort to a strike.
The DPP had pushed for a deterrent sentence of six weeks’ jail, on the grounds of the "considerable public disquiet" caused by the strike.
She said a lenient approach may encourage others to think that they can commit similar offences and "conveniently express remorse to escape custodial sentence".
She stressed that the illegal strike was not a case of a few workers refraining from work but was a large—scale organised effort to use illegal means to coerce the management of SMRT into giving in to the workers’ demands.
During sentencing, Senior District Judge See Kee Oon highlighted an aggravating factor — that the act was calculated to cause obstruction and inconvenience to transport services.
He noted that Bao did not return to work the next day, even though he was advised to do so by SMRT and the Ministry of Manpower.
He also made a number of threatening comments, warning of further strikes if the demands were not met.
The judge acknowledged Bao’s plea of leniency, saying he showed remorse by pleading guilty right after he was charged.
But he agreed with the prosecution that deterrence must be a primary consideration and that a jail sentence was warranted.
He said while Bao may have been motivated by a sense of grievance, he went against the law.
Bao is the first of five SMRT drivers who have been charged to plead guilty.
Four other drivers were charged last Thursday with instigating the drivers to take part in the strike.
They are He Jun Ling (32), Gao Yue Qiang (32), Liu Xiangying (33), Wang Xianjie, (33).
One of them, He, faces an additional charge of making an online post about the strike.
The four are currently remanded at the Central Police Station.
SMRT said 171 bus drivers did not report for work on 26 November and 88 of them continued to stay away from work on 27 November.
Twenty—nine of them were sent back to China on Sunday.
SMRT said it will not adjust the salaries of its drivers from China despite the strike.
Its Chief Executive Desmond Kuek said this in a town hall meeting with drivers on Monday.
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