Strive for the five major demands, calling for workers strike on 5 August
In the past two months, the Hong Kong people have expressed their views on the Mutual Legal Assistance against Law on Offenders and Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill 2019 (hereafter: extradition bill) in a number of rallies and demonstrations, including the ones on June 9 and June 16. The number of participants in the day reached 1.03 million and 2 million respectively, which is unprecedented not only in Hong Kong, but also in the world. However, Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, continues to disregard public demands and refuses to announce the permanent withdrawal of the evil bill, while the government turns a blind eye to the five demands of the people, but to send police forces to violently suppress the demonstrations. The arrogant attitude of the HKSAR Government and the violent suppression of the police have further aroused public anger, which resulted in persistent protests and demonstrations.
On the evening of 21 July, a group of thugs wearing white shirts, allegedly with triad background, perpetrated indiscriminate assaults on ordinary citizens with weapons such as rattan sticks and wooden clubs. As seen from various video clips, these rioters rushed into the subway station and trains in Yuen Long and attacked the public frantically, while others struck pedestrians and vehicles on the streets. However, according to reports from the news media, police was not deployed in time to stop the mayhem and safeguard the safety of the public, despite emergency calls were made by the public on multiple occasions. On the other hand, there were news clips showing that police officers even converse with the white-shirt thugs in a friendly manner, and subsequently, no offender was apprehended at the scene. The general public believes that this is a police-triad collaborated terrorist attacks on innocent citizens.
This kind of violence seriously challenged the bottom line of Hong Kong people and further infuriated many more. The largely silence civil servants who seldom expressed their views on social or political events in the past, have issued joint statements in succession, and even hold assemblies to condemn violent and demand high officials of the government and police force to establish an independent commission to investigate the police brutality.
As workers, Hong Kong is the home to our careers, families, loved ones, and livelihood. We do not want to see the collapse and demise of Hong Kong. It is our responsibilities to protect this home of ours. We saw the children of Hong Kong were brave enough to take to the streets but were brutally dealt with by the police. We can no longer close our eyes to the situation. Hong Kong belongs to all of us and cannot be controlled and destroyed by the hands of a few. Thus, regardless of class, profession, and occupation, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) calls on all workers to respond to the city wide strike on 5 August, and demand the government to response to the five demands put forward by the Hong Kong people: a) Permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill; b) Release of arrested protesters without charges; c) Withdrawal of the characterization of the 12 June protest as a "riot"; d) Independent investigation into police violence and abuse of power; and e) Implement full universal suffrage.
For the 5 August strike, the HKCTU made the following four appeals to all employers and employees in Hong Kong:
- We appeal to employers in all walks of life to be considerate and supportive. The amendment of the Extradition Bill not only threatens Hong Kong employees and ordinary citizens, but also causes serious damage to the business environment and affects investor confidence. Many companies and organizations spontaneously will launch strikes or make flexible work arrangements to allow their employees to participate in the fight against amendments. The HKCTU urges employers to respond to the strike on 5 August, or to make special arrangements to allow employees to attend the assemblies in various districts.
- We call on employees to participate in the various assemblies on 5 August and to proliferate the message, invite colleagues and peers from your workplace and industry to participate. Employees can formally submit a notice to the employer or supervisor in advance to reiterate their stance in opposition to the amendment of the Extradition Bill and, for the sake of Hong Kong’s future, decide to go on strike and participate in the various 5 August assemblies.
- We also appeal to trade unions from all walks of life to formally request the employer or management to allow employees to participate in the5 August assemblies in the form of strike and agree to the safeguards proposed by the union. We stress that this strike is a political strike, which is different in nature from the strikes caused by labour disputes. The focus of resistance is neither employers nor managements, but to fulfill the civil responsibilities and protect the future of Hong Kong. Therefore, we expect the employers to lay down their differences and support the demands and safeguards proposed by the unions. The various safeguards include: no deduction of the original benefits due to employee participation in the strike, no disciplinary action against employees participating in the strike, and no discrimination against employees participating in the strike.
- If any employee receives unfair treatment or discrimination as a result of participating in the strike, we urge the affected workers to contact the HKCTU and relevant affiliated trade union for assistance. In the past, many labour struggles have shown that even if the existing legislation does not provide sufficient protection for industrial actions, employees can still resist unreasonable labour rights infringements as long as they are united and help each other in times of difficulties. At the same time, we also urge employees who have not yet joined the trade union to join trade union as soon as possible. The employees who do not have independent trade unions in their workplaces may also consider setting up their own trade union to enhance the protection of future struggles with collective strength.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
5 August, 2019
Strike guidelines for employees
Q: How should an employee notify the employer?
A: Employees should formally submit a strike application to the supervisor in writing. The content should indicate that the strike will be on 5 August based on the reasons for the opposition to the Extradition Bill amendment. Participating employees should contact and invite colleagues to join in and initiate a joint notice.
Q: What is the difference between a political strike and ordinary strike?
A: In normal circumstances, strikes are caused by labour disputes. The object of the struggle is the employer and the purpose is to impair production to achieve the demands of the workers. However, the nature of the 5 August strike is completely different. The target is neither any employer nor management. It is a “political strike” that attempts to attain social justice and political demands. Employees can explain to the employers that they should refrain from being over-sensitive and hostile toward the "strike". When social environment and the rule of law are damaged, it will also have an adverse impact on the business environment.
Q: What legislation is in place to protect employees participating in strikes?
A: According to the Employment Ordinance, participation in strike cannot be regarded as a serious misconduct by the employer and may not terminate employment without notice or payment in lieu. The employee's employment period cannot be deemed as interrupted when participating in strike. However, we must also understand that the above protections are very limited and cannot rule out other discriminations from employers.
Q: If employees are unfairly treated for participating in the strike, what can they do?
A: Since the protections from current legislation are insufficient, employees need to protect themselves from collective actions to avoid unfair treatment. Although the nature of many successful strikes in the past, such as the bar-bender strike, the dockers strike or the Hoi Lai Estate cleaners strike is quite different from this time, the success of these strikes were not based upon legal protections, but by collective strength. The Extradition Bill amendment has already provoked enormous impact throughout the society, we must help each other in solidarity and unite employees from different industries, and support employees who receive unfair treatment.
Q: If an employee joins a trade union, is there a difference in the protection of participation in strike?
A: According to the Employment Ordinance, employees in Hong Kong have the right to become members and participate in trade union activities. Employers cannot discriminate or obstruct, otherwise it is a criminal offence. However, this protection only applies to employees participating in trade union activities at "appropriate time". The term "appropriate time" refers to employees participating in trade union activities under "outside working hours" or "with employer consent during working hours". Strike is definitely a trade union activity that can only be carried out during working hours, reflecting the fact that there is a lack of protection for strike in current legislation.
However, the HKCTU will mobilize all our affiliated trade unions to propose to employers to accommodate to the employees’ demand to strike and agree to safeguards to not discriminate against the participants. If you have a relevant independent trade union in your workplace, you can contact these unions and seek support. Even if there is no trade union, in case you encounter any trouble or problem, you can contact the HKCTU hotline at 27708668 for support.
Notification to participate in strike
To: XXXXXX (name of your company/institution)
I, ___________________ (name of employee), is an employee at your company/institution. I am gravely concerned with the recent situation caused by the Extradition Bill amendment which is having an adverse impact on the lives and employment of all workers and the society as a whole. Organizations and institutions from all walks of life, including trade unions and chambers of commerce have repeatedly voiced out their concerns and opposition against the amendment. Still, Government continues to defy overwhelming public opinions. Therefore, I decide to participate in the strike to express my discontent and demand to the Government. The strike is neither directed at your company/institution nor the management. The purpose is to fulfill my social responsibilities as a citizen and expect to receive understanding and support from your company/institution.
Bless Hong Kong
XX August, 2019
Letter from the trade unions to employers
Person in charge at XXXXXX (employer name)
[Calling on XXXXX (name of your company/institution)’s solidarity to protect the rule of law and the future of Hong Kong]
As workers, Hong Kong is the home to our careers, families, loved ones, and livelihood. We do not want to see the collapse and demise of Hong Kong. It is our responsibilities to protect this home of ours. We saw the children of Hong Kong were brave enough to take to the streets but were brutally dealt with by the police. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the situation.
To go on strike is not an easy decision to make. Hong Kong is our home where we all live in and make our livings, and we will not let it fall. At this time of urgency, we call on your company/institution to step up your efforts to protect Hong Kong, and make special arrangements to allow employees to participate in the 5 August strike.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions call on employers from all walks of life to be considerate and support the 5 August strike. The Government defied public opinion and refused to withdraw the extradition bill. It also condone the abuse of violence by the police and triads that endangers the safety of the general public. In late July, many businesses in the areas of Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan closed down their business temporarily since they worried that neither the government nor the police was capable to protect their safety. Earlier, many companies and institutions spontaneously launched a strike or made flexible working arrangements to allow their employees to take actions against the amendment of the Extradition Bill. We urge your company/institution to support the strike on 5 August, or make special arrangements for employees to attend the assembly against the Extradition Bill amendment in the form of strike.
At the same time, our union expect your company/institution to put aside differences and agree to the following safeguards for employees participating in strike, including: no deduction of the original benefits due to employee participation in strike, no disciplinary action against employees participating in strike, and no discrimination against employees participating in strike.
Our union is grateful for your support and commitment to stand together with the workers who go on strike to protect Hong Kong!
Bless Hong Kong
XX August, 2019