SMRT strike situation explained to Chinese embassy: Tan Chuan-Jin

SINGAPORE - Speaking at a press conference today, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that the Chinese embassy in Singapore has been kept informed of the SMRT strike incident involving their citizens.

"As with all incidents involving foreign nationals, we would keep their embassies informed. We have similarly done so with the PRC Embassy. They are aware of the situation," he said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Manpower Ministry jointly announced today that the work permits of 29 SMRT bus drivers who took part in the illegal strike have been revoked and they will be repatriated by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) soon.

One more Chinese national bus driver is to be charged in court, bringing the total number of bus drivers charged for instigating the work stoppage to five.

Mr Tan said that the Singapore Government has explained to Chinese officials the need to deal with the matter in accordance with the law, as what the workers did was "clearly illegal and unacceptable".

He stressed that the actions undertaken by the bus drivers made it an illegal strike, and not just a labour dispute.

On Thursday, the Chinese embassy expressed concern about the arrests of four SMRT bus drivers from China.

In a statement posted on their website, they said that they hoped that the legal rights of those arrested would be protected, and that the matter be resolved in an appropriate manner. They also called for all parties to remain calm.

Mr Tan said that the Government has found the investigations to be extensive and thorough, and in due accordance with the law.

He added that firm action needs to be taken against those who break the law so as to preserve Singapore's industrial harmony and maintain the "tripartite relationship which remains the hallmark of our industrial landscape."

"This is a serious matter and we have been very deliberate and very measured in our actions. The Government has taken into account the roles that the bus drivers played in the illegal strike and the recalcitrance of the bus drivers who participated in the strike on the second day, despite the Government's best efforts to persuade them to abort their plans and return to work," he said.

He stressed that foreign nationals should abide by the laws of their host countries, just as Singaporeans living and working overseas are expected to.

He acknowledged that many of these bus drivers participated in the heat of the moment and that their various grievances are valid, but reiterated that their actions remain illegal.

However, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has separately called on SMRT to fully address the issues raised by the workers.

He added that his ministry will continue to work closely with the embassy to render them any assistance required.

Full statement on next page...

SMRT bus strike: 5th charged, 29 to be deported
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(Photos: ST, TNP)

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