SINGAPORE, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said that he does not expect the bilateral ties between China and Singapore to be affected by a recent industrial action taken by Chinese bus drivers working in Singapore.
Responding to questions raised by lawmakers on Monday, Shanmugam said that the actions by the drivers are being dealt with in accordance with Singapore's laws.
"Our laws apply equally to all Singaporeans and foreigners residing in Singapore, so we see this strictly as a matter of law enforcement and do not expect the incidents to affect relations between Singapore and China," he told lawmakers.
More than 170 bus drivers took medical leaves at the same time in November last year in a rare protest against unequitable pay rises and discriminatory practices that the drivers said existed at local public transport operator SMRT. It was the first strike in decades in Singapore, where authorities discourage industrial actions by making them very difficult with legal restrictions. Instead, it has in place a tripartite consultation mechanism involving the employers, the workers and the government.
Singapore's Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin soon declared the incident an illegal strike. Five bus drivers were charged later and 29 others were deported to China.
One of the drivers charged pleaded guilty without a lawyer and was sentenced to six weeks in jail. Court proceedings were still ongoing against the other four, with lawyers representing them on pro bono basis.
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