Members of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) gathered outside the Singapore embassy in Hong Kong on 5 December to protest the treatment of the Chinese bus strikers from Singapore’s public transport company SMRT.
171 bus drivers went on strike on Monday 26 November, with 88 carrying on into Tuesday. The strike, pronounced “illegal” by the government, was met with swift action. Five of the strikers were charged under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act for their involvement, while 29 others had their work permits revoked and were repatriated to China. Bao Feng Shan, one of the five charged, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. He did not have legal representation. (See my previous post for more information.)
In response, HKCTU organised a protest to demand that the charges against the strikers be dropped, the deported workers be reinstated, Bao Feng Shan released from prison and for the law criminalising strikes to be dropped.
“These actions are invariably targeted at creating fear, especially amongst migrant workers who usually receive discriminatory treatment, to warn them from taking such strike action again,” said HKCTU in their press statement. The organisation also quoted the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) labour standards, saying, “The ILO principles governing the right to strike provides that there must be as few legal restrictions as possible, and also there must be no punitive actions taken against workers who goes on strike.”
HKCTU are not the only ones to react to the treatment of the strikers. A group of concerned Singaporeans have gathered to organise a campaign to express solidarity with the Chinese workers. Their first event, a forum entitled ‘The SMRT Strike – Why should we care?‘ will take place in the weekend and aims to encourage Singaporeans to discuss issues surrounding industrial relations in Singapore such as discrimination and the lack of independent trade unions.