Singapore yesterday issued a warning to mainland Chinese bus drivers, who are staging the first strike in the city-state for more than 25 years - an act that could land them in prison.
A total of 102 Chinese drivers working for state-linked transport firm SMRT began their wildcat strike over pay on Monday, refusing to board a shuttle bus from their dormitory to a depot.
An agreement was hammered out to convince them to return to work, but SMRT said more than 60 drivers still did not turn up for duty yesterday.
Strikes and other forms of industrial action are extremely rare in Singapore. The last illegal strike was in 1980, involving the Singapore Airlines pilots' union, the Ministry of Manpower said. The last legal strike was in 1986.
"Taking the law into your own hands is wrong. This illegal strike is not acceptable and will be dealt with in accordance to the law," said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin. "By taking matters into their own hands, the drivers have crossed the line."
He said strikes are illegal for workers in "essential services" such as transport unless they give 14 days' notice of their intent.
While the drivers have their grievances, they should have resorted to legal ways to have their complaints heard, Tan said.
One of the Chinese drivers told reporters he and his colleagues - who are not union members - felt aggrieved over a disparity in pay between Chinese and Malaysian bus drivers.
Singapore has been hiring bus drivers from China and Malaysia because of a chronic shortage of manpower.