Singapore sentenced a Chinese immigrant bus driver to six weeks in prison on Monday for his involvement in the city-state’s first labour strike in 26 years.
Pushing for the jail term as a deterrent, the prosecution argued in court that although Bao Feng Shan, 38, was not an instigator of the strike, he was “far from a mere passive participant.”
The prosecution said a lenient approach may encourage others to think that they can commit similar offences and “conveniently express remorse to escape custodial sentence.”
A total of 171 Chinese bus drivers went on strike last Monday in protest at being paid nearly a quarter less than Malaysian bus drivers who work for the same transport company.
More than half continued to protest on Tuesday but the strike was over by Wednesday. It disrupted about 5 per cent of the city-state’s bus services.
Walking off the job in protest is almost unheard of in Singapore, which requires essential service workers such as bus drivers to give 14 days’ notice of a strike. The last strike was in 1986 by shipyard workers.
Bo was one of five bus drivers charged for involvement in the strike. The other four are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday and are currently being held at the central police station.
If convicted, they can be fined up to US$2,000 and sentenced to up to a year in prison.
On Sunday, 29 other drivers had their permits revoked and were deported to China. The government said a police investigation found that the strike was premeditated and that the drivers had been absent from work without reason.
Others involved in the unrest will be issued warnings but no further action will be taken and they will be allowed to remain and work in the country.
Singapore relies on hundreds of thousands of immigrants from countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and China to work as maids, construction workers and at other jobs deemed unappealing by many locals.