Thursday, 29 November 2012

Why it took time to label protest a strike



FOR the first time, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday called the no-show at work by SMRT's China-born bus drivers on Monday and yesterday an "illegal strike".

On Monday, 102 mainland Chinese SMRT bus drivers staged a protest at their Woodlands dormitory over unhappiness on matters such as getting a lower pay increase than Malaysian drivers. Yesterday morning, 62 China-born SMRT bus drivers did not report for work.

The Government, various Members of Parliament and public-transport operator SMRT previously avoided labelling the incident a strike.

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Why the word 'strike' was not used initially

For the first time yesterday, the word "strike" was used to describe the actions of the SMRT bus drivers who refused to work in protest against salary increments.

The absence of the word from media reports led to questions from members of the public and others online about why it was not used.

At a press conference yesterday, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin explained that this was because the Government needed time to ascertain the facts of the incident, as well as the rules and regulations provided under the law.

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Govt moves against 'illegal strike'

Police probing SMRT bus drivers; plans in place if strike is prolonged

THE Government is taking action against the SMRT bus drivers from China who refused to turn up for work because they were unhappy with their wages.



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Zero tolerance for bus drivers' illegal strike: Govt

The Government sharply rebuked the SMRT bus drivers who refused to return to work yesterday, a day after they had staged a similar protest, saying they had "clearly crossed the line" by staging an illegal strike.

Chastising them for "taking matters into their own hands", Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the Government had zero tolerance for the drivers' actions because they had disrupted an essential service and affected the daily life of the community, as well as hurt Singapore's industrial harmony.

Their illegal conduct will be investigated, he said at a press conference called yesterday evening after 88 drivers refused to take to the wheel.

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SMRT-bus drivers dispute: NTUC says it supports govt's action

NTUC has issued a statement in response to the Government's updates on the issue of the SMRT-bus drivers dispute:

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) supports the actions taken by the Government. 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

Any action that is illegal must and will be dealt with firmly, regardless of whether the workers are local or foreign.

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No-show by SMRT's bus drivers an "illegal strike": Tan Chuan-Jin

A SMRT bus carrying personnels from SMRT HR and bus operations management arrive at the workers' dormitary at Woodlands Sector 1 where the SMRT drivers involved in the wage dispute were staying on 27 Nov 2012. Photo by OOI BOON KEONG.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said today the no-show at work by SMRT's bus drivers from China is an "illegal strike".

He said workers of essential services 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 as their actions affected essential services and industrial relations.

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Singapore's first strike in 26 years peters out

Singapore's first strike in 26 years ended Wednesday when mainland Chinese bus drivers demanding higher pay reported for duty after two days of protest that angered the city-state's government.

State-linked transport operator SMRT said the rate of attendance of its bus drivers on Wednesday was "back to normal and all our bus services are running as scheduled".

It said 20 of the drivers were "assisting the police" in an investigation after their action was declared illegal by the manpower ministry, which warned that anyone found guilty could be fined or jailed for up to a year.

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Drivers back at work but saga's not over

SMRT bus drivers on the 4am first shuttle bus to work yesterday morning. Some drivers who returned to work after the strike said they did so for fear of going without a salary. Photo by DON WONG

Bus services operated by SMRT ran as scheduled yesterday as its China drivers got behind the wheel, after a two-day illegal strike over their pay and living conditions.

The dust, however, has yet to settle, as 20 of the 171 drivers involved in the illegal strike are assisting the police with their investigations into possible breaches of the law. Under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, essential service workers cannot go on strike unless they give their employers 14 days' notice of their intention. Contacted last night, a police spokesperson said it was unable to comment further as an investigation is ongoing and should be allowed to "run its course".

Some who returned to work yesterday said they did so for fear of going without a salary, while others took heed of the management's promise to get back to them on their demands. Six drivers who did not turn up for work yesterday morning had valid reasons for being absent, SMRT said.

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20 SMRT bus drivers assisting police in investigations

Most of the bus drivers involved in an illegal strike over a pay dispute have returned to work except for six who had valid medical reasons.

Providing an update at a media conference, transport operator SMRT said that 20 bus drivers from China and SMRT personnel are assisting the police in their investigations.

SMRT added that disciplinary action will be taken against those who didn't turn up for work and didn't have valid reasons but did not disclose what the disciplinary action would include.


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SMRT lodges a police report for an illegal strike by some of its bus drivers from China

In an update on an illegal strike by some of its bus drivers from China, SMRT says it has lodged a police report for further investigations into possible breaches of the law.

This is in accordance with its obligations as a public transport operator.

At the same time, SMRT said it's conducting its own investigations on whether terms of employment have been breached.

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Singapore Police Stand Guard as SMRT Bus Drivers Halt Work

Singapore police stood watch at a workers' dormitory as bus drivers from SMRT Corp. (MRT) skipped work for a second day after a wage dispute, in a rare public display of labor discord in the island nation.

About 60 bus drivers didn't turn up for work this morning, some with valid medical reasons, SMRT, Singapore's biggest subway operator that also runs bus services, said in an e-mailed statement. SMRT said yesterday that 102 of its drivers, all from China, didn't report for duty.

"We continue to keep our communications open with the service leaders," SMRT said, referring to the drivers. The company is "also working with the relevant authorities to find an amicable resolution," it said.

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Singapore laws on strikes


SEVERAL pieces of Singapore's legislation deal with strikes, including those that stipulate that strikes are prohibited in the public service.

Some general ones include the Trade Unions Act as well as the Trade Disputes Act.

The latter defines a strike, also called an industrial action, as "the cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any trade or industry acting in combination, or a concerted refusal...to continue to work or to accept employment".

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SMRT PRC Bus Drivers End Strike After Intervention By Chinese Embassy Officials
Hardwarezone Forum, 28 Nov 2012
The SMRT bus drivers who had been on strike for the past two days, causing delays in service, appeared to have returned to work this morning.
Two buses full of drivers picked up the drivers, who are from China, from their Woodlands dormitory to ferry them to their respective bus depots.
The drivers, who were protesting against what they viewed as an unequal pay rise compared to drivers from Malaysia, were in discussions with SMRT and union officials for most of yesterday.

Late in the day, Chinese Embassy officials arrived at the dormitory and were seen talking to the drivers before they left in the early hours of the morning.  Full story
 
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Bus driver community split over mass labour strike


Some SMRT bus drivers feel that their Chinese colleagues should rightly be earning less than their Malaysian counterparts. (Yahoo! photo)

UPDATE on Wed 28/11: All drivers who went on strike on Monday have returned to work on Wednesday morning.

While bus captains from China do work the same hours as drivers of other nationalities, it's fair that they are paid less because they get transportation and housing, say some SMRT bus drivers.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore on an anonymous basis on Tuesday, several Singaporean and Malaysian bus drivers in general voiced this sentiment in the wake of Monday’s full-day Chinese bus drivers’ strike.

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SMRT bus drivers appear to end strike

The SMRT bus drivers who had been on strike for the past two days, causing delays in service, appeared to have returned to work this morning.

Two buses picked up the drivers, who are from China, from their Woodlands dormitory to ferry them to their respective bus depots.

One bus left at 4am while the next departed at 5.15am, according to TODAY photojournalist Don Wong, who said that while it was impossible for the media to do an exact headcount, all seats had been occupied on both buses by their time of departure, suggesting a full complement of drive

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An illegal strike or "wage dispute"?

The PAP Government was probably caught with its pants down when 171 (originally quoted as 102) PRC bus drivers of SMRT suddenly refused en masse to turn up for work on Monday 25 November because they were unhappy with their wages.The Government demurred in calling it an  illegal strike immediately obviously because the drivers involved are from China, a country with which the PAP leaders are ingratiating themselves and a country not to be trifled with because of its greatness. The irony is that if the drivers involved were Singaporeans, the Government would not have batted an eyelid in using the knuckleduster and arresting them for illegal strike. So when the Ministry of Manpower was told about the "SMRT situation", it avoided branding it an illegal strike and merely said that it takes "the workers' actions very seriously".

The intrepid Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin probably could not find peace of mind thniking hard how to present the drivers' action as an illegal strike without repercussions, especially from China. So it was not surprising that he finally summoned up enough courage, after no doubt consultation with his political master the prime minister, to describe the drivers' action as an illegal strike. The Government said that the drivers would be dealt with, if found guilty. It is not hard to see that the Acting Minister's explanation of not calling the drivers' action at the outset as illegal strike lacks conviction.

The China factor is undoubtedly the most important consideration in the PAP Government's deliberations in how to handle this illegal strike by PRC drivers .Netizens in China are out in full force accusing the Singapore Government of discriminating against PRC workers. And China has asked Singapore to safeguard the rights and interests of  Chinese workers according to local laws. The Chinese mainstream media are probably holding back comments waiting for a cue from the Chinese Government. So that should be sufficient premonition for the PAP Government to take note on how to deal with the PRC drivers without incurring the wrath of Great China.

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Time for govt to show leadership, or admit its incompetence



We have the government exhorting Singaporeans not to be xenophobic, but on the other hand, we have a GLC practicing wage discrimination along nationalistic lines in the most blatant fashion. This is sheer hypocrisy.

As it is, bus drivers employed in Singapore already rank lowest among developed countries in terms of pay. Hence, this episode illustrates perfectly well that the huge influx of foreigners is all about giving corporations and GLCs a gold mine of cheap labour at the expense of the livelihoods of Singaporeans.

The impotent National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) also added nothing of substance, apart from rehashing motherhood statements about the need for proper ways of dealing with disagreements or the need to maintain an open line of communication with workers, especially those who are not union members.

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Strike Two
 


 It's official. For the second day running, the strike is on. After SMRT's packet of lies (the strikers on Monday numbered 171, not 102), 88 drivers from China stood their ground for their right of protest.

While the ex-army officer (Desmond Kuek was the 6th Chief of Defence Force of the Singapore Armed Forces) they hired to run SMRT is taking cover in his bunker, another ex-general tried to explain why it took him so long to understand the meaning of the word "strike".  He probably had to ask permission from the boss first. "Sir! Permission to think, Sir!"

Brigadier General and Acting Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said it took a whole day for the Government to call the protest a strike because,

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We Pay $1.1 Billion To Get A Bus Strike?

I was aghast when parliament approved the $1.1 billion (Bus Service Enhancement Programme) of taxpayers money to be given the bus companies to improve bus services.

We cannot help the poorest of the poor in Singapore by providing them with 3 meals in hawkers centre (No, not in food court , definitely not in hotel restaurant!); we cannot have minimum wage for the lowest paid; we cannot buy flats from HDB at affordable price (no, not subsidised but reasonable price at cost plus basis) BUT we can blow $1.1 billion to add comfort to the two public transport operators.

Now I am devastated!
Red vs Red
Men In Red
Vehicles in Red
Do the 'Ang Chia's (Special Operations Command vehicles) still intimidate? Or are they merely 'toys' to PRCs because PRCs did messed around with tanks in Tiananmen Square previously?

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Realtime Coverage



Why the word 'strike' was not used initially
Business Times (subscription)
TODAYonline - ‎3 hours ago‎
TODAYonline - ‎3 hours ago‎
Business Times (subscription) - ‎12 hours ago‎
Business Times (subscription) - ‎12 hours ago‎
Bernama - ‎12 hours ago‎
Bernama - ‎12 hours ago‎
Why it took time to label protest a strike
AsiaOne - ‎34 minutes ago‎
FOR the first time, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday called the no-show at work by SMRT's China-born bus drivers on Monday and yesterday an "illegal strike". On Monday, 102 mainland Chinese SMRT bus drivers staged a protest at ...
Zero tolerance for bus drivers' illegal strike: Govt
TODAYonline - ‎3 hours ago‎
SINGAPORE - The Government sharply rebuked the SMRT bus drivers who refused to return to work yesterday, a day after they had staged a similar protest, saying they had "clearly crossed the line" by staging an illegal strike. Chastising them for "taking ...
Why the word 'strike' was not used initially
TODAYonline - ‎3 hours ago‎
SINGAPORE - For the first time yesterday, the word "strike" was used to describe the actions of the SMRT bus drivers who refused to work in protest against salary increments. The absence of the word from media reports led to questions from members of the ...
No show by SMRT drivers an illegal strike: Tan Chuan-Jin
Business Times (subscription) - ‎12 hours ago‎
Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin has called the actions of a group of SMRT bus drivers that refused to show up for work an illegal strike. - PHOTO: ST. Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin has called the actions of a group of SMRT bus ...
Strikes By SMRT Drivers Illegal, Zero Tolerance For Unlawful Action, Says Acting ...
Bernama - ‎12 hours ago‎
SINGAPORE, Nov 27 (Bernama) -- Strikes are illegal for workers in essential services, unless they give the employer 14 days' notice of an intent to go on strike, and comply with requirements of the notice, said Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.
No-show by SMRT's bus drivers an "illegal strike": Tan Chuan-Jin
TODAYonline - ‎14 hours ago‎
SINGAPORE - Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said today the no-show at work by SMRT's bus drivers from China is an "illegal strike". He said workers of essential services have to give 14 days' notice to their employers and must comply with ...

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related:
Arrests, Abuses And Alleged Assaults
Lessons to learn from the illegal SMRT strike