Fri, Dec 07, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Chinese workers protest over pay in Singapore

AFP and Reuters, SINGAPORE

Two crane operators staged a high-rise protest at a construction site in Singapore yesterday, its second industrial incident involving Chinese workers in less than two weeks.

The workers, reportedly demanding payment of back wages before their return to China, perched themselves on top of separate cranes before agreeing to come down after hours of negotiations with rescuers, an Agence France-Presse photographer said.

The crane protest came 10 days after a work stoppage by Chinese bus drivers erupted at a transport firm — Singapore’s first industrial strike since 1986.

The protest came as four drivers accused of instigating the Nov. 26 to 27 strike at state-linked transport firm SMRT appeared in court.

Liu Xiangying, 33, Gao Yue Qiang, 32, Wang Xianjie, 39, and He Jun Ling, 32 appeared in handcuffs and told the court they would engage defense lawyers. Their case was adjourned until Wednesday. Bail was set at S$10,000 (US$8,200) for three of them and at S$20,000 for one man who faces an extra charge.

They face a maximum fine of S$2,000 and/or a sentence of up to a year in prison. The other drivers who took part in the strike would get police warnings, but be allowed to stay and work in Singapore, the government said last week.

Twenty-nine other drivers have already been fired and sent back to China and one has been sentenced to six weeks in jail after pleading guilty to involvement in an illegal strike.

Activist groups have expressed outrage over the crackdown on the bus workers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement yesterday calling on Singapore to drop the charges against the four drivers and put an end to pay discrimination.

The striking drivers said they were being paid less than Malaysian colleagues for the same work.

“Singapore defies basic labor rights by criminalizing migrant workers for a work stoppage and threatening them with prison terms, fines and deportation,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.

“As a country that depends on migrant workers, Singapore should recognize it’s playing with fire by permitting private and state-owned companies to discriminate based on the nationality of the workers,” he added.

The Ministry of Manpower did not respond to a request for comment.

Singaporeans, most of whom are ethnic Chinese, were firmly in support of punishment for the workers, but also blamed the bus company, a poll showed.

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