The Australian: The first real strike in a quarter century involving 5% of critical transport services for an extremely population dense island-nation just over fifty years old, does seem to tell Singapore that leveraging on China’s rise may prove to be an increasingly delicate affair.
Contrary to opinion floating around, strikes are not illegal but rather, one must be extremely in the know and meet multiple conditions to pull one off.
This sure has angered many Chinese on the mainland and Singaporean Chinese too – it is a complex issue with a tremendous back story. It will however, surely do little positives for the projection of national image and public diplomacy between the only two independent Chinese-majority states with Chinese leadership at the helm in the world.
Indeed, Singapore has been a known transnational Chinese social sphere for the good part of three centuries. Sun Yat Sen organised his thoughts and finances in Singapore to trigger the Chinese revolution a century odd back – will this spawn a chapter between the Chinese of Singapore and China?
For more, check out Why Chinese drivers went on strike in Singapore at Xinhua, December 8, 2012. Also, for evidence the Chinese are keeping a pulse on their sojourning workforce and consequent international relations with the host country – see China hopes Singapore secure rights of arrested drivers: ministry at Xinhua on December 7, 2012. J
Just how these events unfolding will impact bilateral ties remains to be seen – more recently more workers went on strike at Singapore’s docks. More on that in a coming article.
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Migrant bus driver strike stuns Singapore
Source – The Australian, published December 6, 2012
FOUR Chinese immigrant bus drivers accused of inciting Singapore’s first labour strike in 26 years have been granted bail in a case that highlighted growing social friction caused by an influx of foreign labour.
A fifth Chinese driver has already been sentenced to six weeks in prison even though prosecutors said he was not an instigator of the strike, which was called to demand equitable pay.
Walking off the job in protest is almost unheard of in Singapore, and the swift prosecution following the November 26-27 strike was a clear sign the government of this strictly-enforced country will not brook any disobedience from its work force.
Three of the men who appeared in court on Thursday were allowed a bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars ($A7,880).
A fourth driver, He Jun Liang, who faces an additional charge of making an online post in Mandarin, was given a bail of $S20,000.
It is not clear if they will be able to raise the money to get out of detention before their case resumes on December 12.
A Chinese embassy official who was present at the hearing declined to comment on the cases.
If found guilty, all four men face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $S2,000.
The four drivers and the fifth already in jail were among 171 Chinese bus drivers of a state transport company who went on strike in protest at being paid nearly a quarter less than their Malaysian colleagues.
The labour action disrupted about five per cent of the city-state’s bus services.
Singapore requires essential service workers to give 14 days’ notice of a strike.
The last strike in the country was in 1986 by shipyard workers.
The government revoked the work permits of 29 other drivers and deported them to China.
The remaining drivers in the group were issued warnings, and will be allowed to remain and work in Singapore.
Authorities say a police investigation found the strike was premeditated and the drivers were absent from work without reason.
The bus company’s chief, Desmond Kuek, has said the Chinese drivers’ salary was fair.
He said the Chinese were paid less than the Malaysians because the company bore their expenses for transport, accommodation and utilities.
Singapore relies on hundreds of thousands of immigrants from countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia and Myanmar (Burma) to work as maids, construction workers, waiters, rubbish collectors and at other jobs deemed unappealing to many locals.
But the massive influx of foreigners has created much resentment among locals who see them as undisciplined and noisy.
They also blame the foreigners for the overcrowding that has put pressure on infrastructure, and for raising housing prices because of bigger demand on limited supply.
The case has not caused any diplomatic rift between Singapore and China, a major trading partner.
But activists in Hong Kong staged a protest outside the Singapore consulate on Wednesday.