Four SMRT bus drivers sentenced to between six and seven weeks' jail

Four SMRT bus drivers from China have been jailed for between six and seven weeks for instigating an illegal strike last November.

Gao Yue Qiang, 32, Liu Xiangying, 33, Wang Xianjie, 39, and He Jun Ling, 32, pleaded guilty for their roles on Monday at the Subordinate Courts.

Gao, Liu and Wang were convicted on one charge of conspiring to instigate the protest. They were each sentenced to six weeks in jail.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring and "inciting" the other drivers to take part. He will serve a seven-week jail sentence.

The men could have been jailed for up to a year or fined up to $2,000 or both.

The four men are among the 171 China-born drivers who took part in the strike on Nov 26, and the 88 who stayed away again the next day. They were protesting over pay and living conditions.

He's lawyer Choo Zheng Xi told the court that his client is "deeply remorseful" for his role in the illegal strike, Singapore's first in 26 years.

In his mitigation plea, Mr Choo said the four Chinese nationals did not join the unions and therefore "did not have the leverage of being able to collectively negotiate the terms of their employment with SMRT".

"It was never Jun Ling's intention to startle or alarm the public, nor was it a calculated plan of his to unsettle labour relations in Singapore for personal gain."

Mr Choo added: "His actions came from a place of deep desperation and dispair at his living conditions, discriminatory pay, and a lack of an outlet to express his grievances."

Calling for a deterrent sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Ng argued that the court should look at the aggravating factors.

He said that the four men "executed a deliberate and considered plan to coerce" SMRT management to meet their demands.

Senior District Judge See Kee Onn said the accused were aware that "they could not justify taking the law into their own hands".

While he noted that they have pleaded for leniency, the judge said that "ignorance of the law however cannot excuse their conduct entirely".