Strikes are extremely rare in Singapore. There hasn't been once since shipyard workers dissented all the way back in 1986.
So when 171 bus drivers went on strike this week, the government played hardball.
The strike was quickly declared illegal, and riot police went to the drivers' hostel.
The drivers, all Chinese, were largely protesting because they're paid significantly less than Singaporean and Malaysian drivers.
Four drivers have been formally charged. They face fines of up to $1,600 and up to one year in prison.
The statements from Singapore's Ministry of Manpower tells you everything you need to know about the state of labor relations in the tightly regulated country.
"We have zero tolerance for such unlawful action because disrupted essential services not only affected the workers in the industry, but also affect the daily life of all in the community," said acting manpower minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
Strikes like this are simply not acceptable. They undermine "industrial harmony." From the MOM statement:
These drivers allegedly instigated their fellow employees to participate in the illegal strike which adversely impacted essential public transport services – commuters were affected, even as other bus drivers worked to help ensure the services continued to run even with the disruptions. The illegal strikes are not acceptable and have undermined the industrial harmony we have built over the years. These alleged instigators must be dealt with in accordance to our laws.
Public transportation is considered an "essential service" in Singapore, and by law, workers must give 14 days' notice before going on strike. Public utilities workers do not have a right to strike at all, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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