Friday 7 December 2012

Protest by HK trade unions over SMRT strike "highly regrettable", says NTUC chief

By Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia, 6 Dec 2012

Labour chief Lim Swee Say said on Thursday the protest by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) over the illegal strike by SMRT bus drivers from China is highly regrettable.

Mr Lim was speaking on the sidelines of the Labour Movement Workplan Seminar on Thursday.

Some 20 members of the HKCTU held a protest outside the Singapore Consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

The confederation had said Singapore did not respect the basic rights of workers who go on strike.

It also accused Singapore of not conforming to equal remuneration for its workers.

The union called on the Singapore government to reinstate the 29 drivers who were repatriated, and to drop the charges against the five who were detained.

Mr Lim, who is Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that it is highly inappropriate for unions of other countries to dictate what another country should do.

Mr Lim said: "We, as a labour movement, NTUC, we will not dictate what Hong Kong, the government or trade unions should do because why? We should respect that each country has its own different circumstances.

"All workers regardless of nationalities must respect the law of the land. I'm sure in Hong Kong, they expect their workers to follow the law of their land as well."

He urged management, union and workers to strengthen communications and pertnerships to ensure that workers are treated fairly.

Mr Lim added that the strike could have been avoided.

He added: "If the management can respect and recognise the role of the union and when the union and management work together with the workers, I think it's a much better way in ensuring we can take care of the interest of the workers, business, and thereby able to serve the public commuters better."

On a separate issue, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, who is chairman of the Migrant Workers' Centre, said more help will be given to the 89 workers who were injured in the Jurong shipyard rig accident.

Besides counselling sessions, they will also be given a free phone set with a prepaid phonecard to enable them to contact their loved ones.

HK unionists protest outside S'pore consulate over bus strike
By Roland Lim, Channel NewsAsia, 5 Dec 2012

Hong Kong's trade union body held a protest at the Singapore Consulate on Wednesday as a show of solidarity with the Chinese mainland bus drivers who held illegal strikes in Singapore on 26 and 27 November.

About 20 members of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions called on the Singapore government to reinstate the 29 drivers who were repatriated and to drop the charges for the five who are detained.

Scuffles broke out between the protesters, building security personnel, and police when protesters were prevented from accessing the 9th floor Consulate office at Admiralty Centre to submit their petition letter.

The protesters were eventually granted access after a short stand-off.

The labour group said that Singapore did not respect international labour standards that allow workers to strike and called for equal remuneration for migrant workers.

SMRT bus drivers from China in strikes on 26 and 27 November protested for pay equal to that of their Malaysian counterparts, and for better housing conditions.

The Singapore government subsequently called the strike an "illegal strike" as 14 days' notice was not given to their employer.

This is mandatory under Singapore law for workers providing an "essential service".

29 drivers were eventually repatriated while five were detained by the police. One has been sentenced to six weeks' jail.

"Chinese workers, being migrant workers, feel aggrieved and may not know all the avenues that are available to them," said Lee Cheuk-Yan, general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

"So it is a matter of information for migrant workers, and also a matter for the Singapore government to review the law and support for migrant workers instead of jailing them," he added.

The protesters also called on the Singapore government to amend the law stipulating that workers providing essential services need to give 14 days' advanced notice before striking.

A statement issued by Singapore's National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in response to the protest said that both local and migrant workers in Singapore have a right under Singapore's labour legislation to take industrial action or go on strike.

It said workers can do so if they follow the laws in Singapore.

NTUC said it had conveyed its position to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions on two occasions, once on 30 November before the protest and once on Wednesday afternoon.


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