SINGAPORE: Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan—Jin said on Tuesday the no—show at work by SMRT’s bus drivers from China is an "illegal strike".
He said workers of essential services in Singapore have to give 14 days’ notice to their employers and must comply with requirements under the law.
Mr Tan said the drivers have crossed the line by taking matters into their own hands.
This, he said, is not acceptable as their actions have affected essential services and industrial relations.
He said the government views this seriously and has zero tolerance for this.
Mr Tan, who was speaking at a media conference on Tuesday, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) understands the grievances of the drivers but stressed that there are due processes in place for them to raise their concerns with management.
Asked if the workers will be sacked or sent back to China, Mr Tan said investigations are still on.
Police are also investigating the matter.
Mr Tan said the matter should be "left to due processes".
Asked why MOM has decided to label the actions of the drivers as a strike, Mr Tan replied that labelling it as a strike opens up a series of actions that will follow.
He said with every action, there’ll be a series of potential responses and the government and the authorities need to be prepared for them.
Mr Tan said they had to ascertain the facts, as well as the rules and regulations under the law, before calling it a strike.
Also speaking at the media conference, Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo urged employers and employees to handle grievances in a proper manner.
She said there must be open dialogue and stressed that there are proper channels for this.
Mrs Teo said any behaviour that affects the public is not the right.
She also said SMRT continues to operate all its bus services.
On Monday, SMRT maintained 90 per cent of its services; on Tuesday, it restored services to 95 per cent.
The public transport operator has also put 40 bus drivers on standby and has an arrangement with SBS Transit to provide drivers if needed.
In response to what has been said by the authorities on Tuesday evening, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said it supports the action taken by the Government regarding the illegal strike of the SMRT’s bus drivers.
The NTUC said it is important to send a clear signal to all workers that as a nation ruled by law, there are proper ways of dealing with issues and disagreement.
It added that any action that is illegal must and will be dealt with firmly, regardless of whether the workers are local or foreign.
The labour movement said there are important lessons that can be drawn from this episode.
Management must maintain an open line of communication with their workers especially those who are not union members.
Workers must recognise that there is a right and proper way to air their grievances and these should be adhered to.
Cham Hui Fong, Assistant Secretary—General of NTUC, said: "As a labour movement which represent the workers, although they are not our members, they are part of our workforce. It’s important that they understand that to resolve their issues is not through striking or not going back to work, but in communicating with people. If the management is not talking to them, then I think it’s the role of the workers to make sure management listens to them."
The National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) has offered to continue working with SMRT management in engaging and addressing the issues faced by the bus drivers from China.
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