SINGAPORE: Four SMRT bus drivers from China were charged on Thursday with instigating an illegal strike involving fellow drivers at the Woodlands dormitory on 26 and 27 November.
The four are: He Jun Ling, 32; Gao Yue Qiang, 32; Liu Xiangying, 33; and Wang Xianjie, 39.
They are accused of engaging in a conspiracy to instigate the drivers to take part in the strike.
20 SMRT bus drivers were brought to the police headquarters for investigations on Wednesday.
Authorities could not confirm if more drivers would be charged over the next few days as the police are still investigating the case.
If convicted, each of them may be fined up to S$2,000 or jailed 12 months.
They will be remanded for a week at the Central Police Station.
He Jun Ling faces an additional charge of making an online post about the strike.
He is accused of calling his fellow drivers to "take action" in a post he wrote in Chinese on website Baidu.
He allegedly called the drivers to "go on MC together tomorrow, 26, Monday and 27, Tuesday."
He allegedly said that if a few hundred bus drivers did not report for work for a few days, there would be public outcry in Singapore and that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would then have to start questioning SMRT.
He allegedly said the matter concerns the interest of everybody, and everyone should take part in the action.
Channel NewsAsia asked the Attorney—General’s Chambers (AGC) if more drivers will be charged over the next few days.
In response, an AGC spokesperson said police are still investigating.
171 bus drivers took part in the strike on Monday and 88 of them continued with the strike on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, 20 SMRT bus drivers were called in by police to help with investigations.
"We understand the grievances of SMRT drivers and it’s unfortunate that they sought to resolve this matter through organising an illegal strike," said Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo.
"Maintaining industrial harmony is very important to Singapore, particularly because public transport is one of the essential services so we have to take it in a very serious manner," she added.
Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor also said she welcomed police investigations and that "what has happened has damaged this industrial harmony that we have built up over the years and swift action must be carried out".
Representatives from the Chinese Embassy were seen at the Subordinate Courts on Thursday.
Two officials from the Chinese Embassy also visited affected drivers at the Woodlands dormitory on Thursday evening, spending two hours in the dormitory.
In a statement in Mandarin on its website, the Chinese Embassy in Singapore expressed concern over the arrest of the four drivers.
It said its consular staff had conveyed its concern to the relevant authorities in Singapore and are making arrangements to pay the four arrested a consular visit.
The Embassy also urged all parties to remain calm and objective, and to work together to resolve the matter.
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