Updated: 25 February 2013 18:45
SMRT wage protest: Chinese bus drivers’ illegal strike saga

Strike instigators sentenced to jail

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Strike instigators sentenced to jail

Up to 171 SMRT bus drivers from China staged a protest on Nov 22, 2012, over disparity of wages between them and the Malaysian bus drivers as well as “poor living conditions”.

Five were charged with instigating the illegal strike, with one of them sentenced to six weeks jail a week later on Dec 3. The other four were sentenced to between six and seven weeks' jail on Feb 25.

Another 29 had their work permits revoked and were sent back to China on Dec 2.

The 34 ex-SMRT bus drivers were among some 170 unhappy drivers who went on strike on Nov 26. While most returned to work the following day after speaking with officials from the Chinese Embassy in Singapore, 88 continued to be absent, prompting SMRT to lodge a police report.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin called the no-show an “illegal strike” and deemed the bus drivers’ behaviour “unacceptable”, which the government had “zero tolerance” for.

Police called in 20 bus drivers for investigations on Nov 28 and four were charged the next day with initiating the strike at the Woodlands dormitory. They are He Jun Ling, 32; Gao Yue Qiang, 32; Liu Xiangying, 33; and Wang Xianjie, 39.

A fifth person, Bao Feng Shan, 38, was charged on Dec 1 and sentenced to six weeks’ jail on Dec 3.

Another 29, who were absent from work on either or both days of the illegal strike without valid reasons, were repatriated. They received ex gratia bonuses on a pro-rated basis before they left on Dec 2.

Over 150 other drivers were let off with police warning letters. The rest, who can continue working in Singapore, were said to have been coerced or threatened to join the strike.

SMRT had earlier explained during a media conference that its Chinese bus drivers are hired under two-year contracts while Malaysians drivers are employed as permanent employees.

A special increment of S$75 was given to the Chinese drivers in July as a form of goodwill although it wasn’t part of their contractual terms.

The public transport operator added that it had also planned for an additional S$25 adjustment for the Chinese drivers, but the illegal strike took place before they were aware of the proposed change.   

They are now in the process of reviewing the drivers’ concerns over wages and dormitory issued and will look into improving communications with them.

Click through the gallery to find out the developments on the illegal strike.

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