Defiant Chinese drivers continue pay protest in Singapore

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 2:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 2:57pm

About 60 mainland Chinese bus drivers in Singapore stayed off work on Tuesday, the second day of a rare labour stoppage in the city-state.

State-linked transport firm SMRT said that of the 102 who refused to work on Monday over a pay dispute, 60 did not turn up on Tuesday despite an agreement to do so.

“Some 60 did not turn up for work in the morning, some of whom have valid medical reasons,” SMRT said in a statement.

“We continue to keep our communications open... and are also working with the relevant authorities to find an amicable resolution.”

The mainland Chinese drivers on Monday refused to board a shuttle bus from their dormitory to a nearby depot.

One of them, who declined to be named, said they felt aggrieved over a disparity in pay between Chinese and Malaysian bus drivers.

After talks with SMRT management, with police on standby, the protesting drivers said they would report for work on Tuesday.

SMRT is 54 per cent owned by state investment firm Temasek Holdings. Singapore has been hiring bus drivers from China and Malaysia because of a chronic shortage of manpower.

Strikes and other forms of industrial action are rare in Singapore. The labour movement works closely with the government and private business, making the city-state an attractive place for foreign investment.

The last strike in Singapore was in 1986, local media said.

The Ministry of Manpower on Monday issued a stern warning to the drivers, saying it “takes the workers’ actions very seriously” and was closely monitoring the situation.

Three police patrol cars were parked near the drivers’ dormitory on Tuesday, witnesses said, in contrast with the day before when four riot police trucks were seen.