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Singapore Must Respect Fundamental Human Rights of Workers

Singapore must respect fundamental human rights of all workers

28 November 2012 Press Release

Joint Civil Society Statement

Singapore Must Respect The Fundamental Human Rights of the SMRT Transport Workers

We are concerned about the government’s reaction to the recent strike action by the migrant Chinese SMRT transport workers. We understand that 171 workers had chosen to strike on Monday 26 November, and subsequently, 88 of these workers continued striking on Tuesday 27 November.

From analysis of Singapore press reports, the workers are unhappy because they are not paid at the same rate as their fellow migrant workers from Malaysia. We are concerned about the plight of these migrant workers, many of whom are vulnerable and have little bargaining power. No worker would choose to go on strike if their calls for fairer treatment have been heeded.

We are also disappointed with the attitude displayed by the government and the unions in the handling of this strike. In particular, the statements issued by Acting Minister for Manpower, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, as well as those issued by the National Transport Workers Union (NTWU) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), calling for harsh action against these workers are uncalled for. Regrettably, instead of addressing their concerns, the workers are cautioned to be “mindful” of the disruption that they are causing.

Singapore must be reminded that as a receiving country, it is obliged to fulfill under the 2007 ASEAN Declaration on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers that includes the implementation of the ILO fundamental principles and rights at work and human rights of all workers as provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We urge the Singapore government to respect and fulfill its obligations on ILO fundamental principles and rights at work for all workers including fair wages, non-discrimination, decent job and decent living conditions. The Singapore government should ensure "fair and appropriate employment protection, payment of wages, and adequate access to decent working and living conditions for migrant workers; and provide migrant workers who may be victims of discrimination, abuse, exploitation, violence, with adequate access to legal and judicial system of the receiving states"(Articles 8-9: ASEAN Declaration on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers).

We urge the government, the unions and SMRT to address the workers’ concerns and provide just remedies instead of subjecting them to punitive actions.


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