Calling the Singaporean Government to immediately release the Chinese workers on strike


Today (5 December), representatives from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) have staged a protest at the Singapore Consulate-General in Hong Kong, against the Singaporean Government's recent move in prosecuting five strikers and deporting 29 of them. The HKCTU criticizes the Singaporean Government's action as a grave violation of right to strike, a right respected and protected by the international community. It also demands the Singaporean Government not only to drop charges against the strikers and stop deporting the workers, but also to reform its draconian laws,  in order to entitle workers their lawful right to strike.
Protesters, while marching to the Consulate-General in Admiralty Centre Tower, were suddenly blocked by the security staff of the building and the latter even fastened the protesters around their necks to stop them from moving. The police officers were deployed to block the path reaching the Consulate-General. Lee Cheuk Yan, the General Secretary of the HKCTU, stated that they had not encountered such a strong blockage while protesting at other consulates in the past. He questioned  if the Singaporean Government was pressurizing the Hong Kong SAR Government, to deploy police in suppressing people's right to demonstrate. After some struggles and negotiation, the police finally agreed to let the protesters read out their statement and hand over their protest letter to a representative from the Consulate-General, in front of its gate.
Reasonable demand met with brutal suppression
On 26 November, 171 Chinese drivers from SMRT Corporation, a public transport operator in Singapore have staged a strike, due to discontents over their pay rate is lower than the local Singaporean drivers and Malaysian drivers (see table below). They refused to work and stayed in their dormitory. On 28 Nov, when they returned to work , they faced prosecution from the Singaporean Government.
Chinese worker
Malaysian worker
Singaporean worker
Wages before July 2012
Wages after July 2012
Wages after Oct 2012
One month wages after completion of a two-year contract
A month-wages
A month-wages
The HKCTU explains that the Singaporean Government has imposed strict regulations on strike, which make workers almost impossible to exercise their right to strike. For example, it requires more than a half of the trade union members to pass for a strike, instead of the international practice of having approval from at least a half of participants who are voting to decide on the strike. Moreover, workers at the public services sector must inform their employers about their strike 14 days in advance. These regulations make strike impossible and therefore, there has been no strike in the past 26 years.
The Government has labelled this strike as “illegal strike”, arrested five strikers and deported 29 drivers. One of the drivers has been sentenced to six-week imprisonment on 3 Dec and another four would have their hearing tomorrow (6 Dec). Such a practice is indeed intending to silent the workers, warning them not to organize strike and industrial actions, especially to foreign workers who often suffer from discrimination.
Right to strike protected by the International Labour Organization
According to Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the HKCTU, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been calling for protection of workers' right to strike. The principles laid down by the ILO regarding right to strike include, to eliminate legal limitations and not to retaliate against strikers in any form. The International Trade Union Confederation also has submitted a report to the World Trade Organization on labour rights in Singapore and recommended that the Singaporean Government to step back from its strong hold on right to strike.
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