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Remarks by Acting Minister for Manpower Mr Tan Chuan-Jin on the Illegal Strike by SMRT Bus Drivers

27 November 2012

  1. We are gathered here today to update you on the illegal strike that has taken place in these last 2 days.
  2. Public transport services, like those provided by SMRT, are listed under “essential services” under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act or CLTPA1. Strikes are illegal for workers in essential services, unless they give the employer 14 days’ notice of the intent to go on strike and comply with requirements of the notice2.
  3. By taking matters into their own hands the drivers have clearly crossed the line. These workers have disrupted public transport services. The Government views these disruptions very seriously. We have zero tolerance for such unlawful action because disrupted essential services not only affect the workers in the industry, but also affect the daily life of all in the community.
  4. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was informed this morning that over 60 SMRT bus drivers did not turn up for work today.

    Action to be taken
  5. Police are currently investigating this illegal strike. There are rules and laws to follow, and we will let the investigations run their course.

    Grievances are no excuse for holding illegal strike
  6. All workers, local or foreign, need to be treated fairly in accordance to Singapore’s laws. All workers also need to be treated fairly because that is what is expected of good leadership and management i.e. responsibilities of any good employer.
  7. MOM understands the bus drivers’ grievances. We expect SMRT to address the grievances raised. SMRT should also work with the union to resolve these issues.
  8. However, regardless of their grievances, what the workers have done is illegal. There are right ways and wrong ways to handle these concerns. There are due processes to be followed. Just as we expect employers to follow the law, employees should similarly do so.
  9. Taking the law into your own hands is wrong. This illegal strike is not acceptable and would be dealt with in accordance to the law.

1 Under the First Schedule of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, Part III, on Illegal Strikes and Lock-Outs in Essential Services, the penalty for illegal strikes is a fine not exceeding $2,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both. Persons who incite or give financial aid also face the same maximum penalty. Besides public transport services, civil defence services, fire services, port, dock and harbour services, health services and refuse and waste services are also considered essential services.
2 Under s 6(1) of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, no workman employed in water services, gas services or electricity services may go on strike, whether with or without notice.