January 8, 2013
By Harry Kelber
After 26 years without a strike, labor unrest over low wages and appalling living conditions have caught up with Singapore, drawing attention to the country’s exploited migrant worker community. Over the past month, several groups of Chinese migrant workers have expanded their protests against the unpaid salaries and the awful food they are served by their employers.
In response to a strike of 171 Chinese bus drivers in November, the Singapore government deported 29 people and imposed $2,000 fines and jail terms for several others for instigating ”illegal” actions. Singapore’s acting Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan-Jn, said: “We have zero tolerance for such disruption of essential services.”
Singapore is home to many migrants who provide cheap manual labor in the construction, shipyard, transportation and garage refuse industries, positions often shunned by affluent citizens.