7 Dec 2012

Singapore urged to drop charges against strikers

A human rights group wants Singapore to drop the charges against four Chinese bus drivers accused of instigating a strike at transport firm SMRT. They were charged after 171 drivers, all of whom were recruited from China, struck over low pay and discrimination.
Singapore has already jailed one bus driver for six weeks and deported 29 others for staging the strike. Strikes are illegal in Singapore for workers in essential services, unless the employer is given 14 days' notice.
However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that none of the conditions for a sector to be deemed essential "can reasonably apply to the situation of the Chinese bus drivers in Singapore".

A year in jail
If convicted, the four drivers face a maximum fine of SG2,000 Singapore dollars (£1,000) as well as the possibility of up to a year in jail. The Chinese drivers who took part in the strike say they are being paid significantly less than drivers of other nationalities and that their company-provided accommodation - which HRW says the drivers paid for - is poor and unhygienic.
The drivers appeared in court on Thursday and were granted bail. Bail was set at SG$10,000 for three of them, and at SG$20,000 for one driver who faces an extra charge for posting a comment on a Chinese social networking site urging other to join the strike.

The workers told the judge that they were not able to raise the bail money. However, it was raised by their supporters within 24 hours. It was not immediately clear who paid the bail, but some of the staff of local humanitarian organizations said they would bail out the workers personally.

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