Migrant Forum in Asia
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Migrant Forum in Asia condemns the prosecution and deportation of Chinese migrant workers in Singapore!

Migrant Forum in Asia condemns the prosecution and deportation of Chinese migrant worker bus drivers who went on strike over a wage dispute on 26-27 November 2012. MFA, a regional network of migrants, migrants rights advocates, trade unions and faith based associations in 17 countries in Asia calls on the Singapore government to drop all charges against the Chinese bus drivers and stop the deportation of the Chinese migrants who participated in the strike.

Four migrant Chinese bus drivers from a government linked transport company, Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT), that provides nation-wide bus and train services were charged in court on Thursday 29 November 2012 for the role they played in a workers strike over wage dispute. The Singapore government deemed the strike illegal and the bus drivers face charges under Singapore’s stringent criminal law which may subject them to stiff penalties and imprisonment.

The Chinese workers grievances that led to the strike include wage discrimination based on nationality. Chinese workers receive the lowest pay compared to their Malaysian and Singaporean counterparts. October 2012 pay increase for instance was given to Singaporean (S$150) and Malaysian drivers (S$150) but drivers from China received nothing.

The four Chinese workers charged – He Jung Liang, Gao Yue Qiang, Liu Xiangying, and Wang Xianjie – face a year in prison and/or a fine up to S$2,000 (US$1640) under Section 10(a) of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. Chinese bus driver, Bao Feng Shan was earlier sentenced by the Singapore authorities to six weeks in prison after pleading guilty to the same charge on 3 December.  29 more Chinese bus drivers who took part in the strike were detained and deported to China on 3 December.

MFA denounces this draconian act of Singapore towards migrant workers.  The harsh actions of the Singapore government and the deportation of the workers overlook the bases for the complaints against wage discrimination based on nationality. MFA calls for a full and independent inquiry into the dispute.

Migrant workers have the fundamental right to strike, and although Singapore is not party to ILO 97 and 143, Singapore, as member of the ILO, “ha[s] an obligation, arising from the very fact of membership in the Organization, to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the principles concerning the fundamental rights…”

The actions of the Chinese bus drivers which arose from their concerns over wage discrimination is a telling sign that remuneration for work of equal value is not being upheld by receiving countries like Singapore. This inequality in wages has been mirrored in the practices of SMRT with set pay scales according to nationality rather than the qualifications and work experience of the migrant worker.

MFA calls on the Singapore government and sending country governments to do away with the “race to the bottom” approach when it comes to wages and living standards for migrant workers.

This global race to the bottom subsequently undermines the rights of all workers by creating unfair pressure in society and in the economy.

Finally,  MFA calls on the Singapore government to properly implement ILO C100 (equal remuneration) and C98 ((Right to Organizing and Collective Bargaining), and ratify ILO Convention 87 (Migration for Employment Convention) and C143 (Migrant Workers, supplementary provisions).

Equal pay for equal work now! Decent work for all including migrant workers!


About Us

MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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