[State of Condemnation]
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions Condemns the Six Major Chambers of Commerce & Hong Kong Business Community Joint Conference in Jointly Depriving Chinese and Hong Kong Workers' Rights to Collective Bargaining
Today (15 May 2014), the Hong Kong Business Community Joint Conference (hereafter: HKBCJC) advertised on various newspapers, to express its opposition against the introduction of “Regulations on Collective Contract" (hereafter: Revised Draft Regulation); on 15 April 2014, the six major Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong (hereafter: six major Chambers) sent a joint petition to the Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung and other 13 department heads of the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities, calling them to put a halt to the above mentioned regulations. The HKCTU is outraged by these shameful practices and condemns the six major Chambers and HKBCJC's joint conspiracy in depriving Chinese and Hong Kong workers of their core labour rights.
The fact that “numerous collective labour actions take place due to enterprises' failure to engage in collective consultation” is ignored
The right to collectively bargain is recognized through international human rights conventions. Legislation to ensure workers' representatives and employers to equally bargain; systematic mechanism to handle disputes occurred due to uneven distribution of profits between workers and employers, in the long-term can enhance social justice and economic prosperity. Since 2010, Guangdong Province and Shenzhen City have been putting out regulations related to collective consultation, yet chambers of commerce from different countries keep holding them back, and among them, the Hong Kong entrepreneurs are the most vocal ones. Many regulations are therefore held at a standstill. However, the lack of collective bargaining is exactly the cause of the increasing number of strikes and collective actions, which has gone up by 70%, from 382 to 656 between 2012 and 2013.
The six major Chambers' claim of “effective consultation mechanisms with workers currently exist in many Hong Kong invested enterprises” is simply their wishful thinking. Between March 2013 and late April 2014, at least 15 collective labour actions in Hong Kong enterprises in Guangdong Province, covering a total workforce of some 100,000 in these labour disputes, all involving strikes, have been documented. Near 90% of these strikes were triggered by enterprises' violations of labour laws and 40% of the enterprises involved are members of four major chambers of commerce. One of the examples is Sanda Kan Industrial Ltd (Dongguan), owned by Kader Industrial Company Limited. Kadar is led by Kenneth Woo-shou Ting, a member of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and ex-chairperson of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. Strike broke out in Sanda Kan when it relocated from Dongguan and left more than 1,000 workers without severance compensation. Instead of having the employer coming forth to negotiate with workers, police from the Wanjiang District were sent to crack down their action and detained workers. The large scale and high frequency of strikes tell us that the current so-called enterprises' self-discipline mechanism cannot effectively resolve labour disputes and only when collective consultation is protected by law, enterprises would make effort to address workers' demands.
Six major Chambers should not only focus on business profits, but also corporate social responsibility
Article 8 of Labour Law and Article 4 of Labour Contract Law have stipulated workers' rights to collective consultation, while the Revised Draft Regulation simply spells out the specific provisions on how to exercise this right. Therefore it is unjustifiable for the six major Chambers to describe it as "beyond the scope of current policy," "not bound by existing laws". Article 8 of Labour Law states “Labours shall take part in democratic management through workers' congress, workers' representative assembly, or any other forms in accordance with law, or consult with the employer on an equal footing about protection of the legitimate rights and interests of labourers.” and Article 4 of Labour Contract Law says “ ...The employing unit shall make public or inform the workers of the rules and regulations, and the decisions on important matters, which have a direct bearing on the immediate interests of the workers.”
In the past three decades, Hong Kong entrepreneurs have taken many advantages, such as land and taxes incentives as foreign enterprises when setting up business in China. It is time that they should not only focus on “management autonomy” and self-interests, while sacrificing legal rights of the working class of Guangdong Province. The Revised Draft Regulation targets on enterprises which fail to discipline themselves and protects workers whose rights are being violated under the current legal framework. In other words, it does not carry any “unfair contents” or “unjust procedures” as the six major Chambers have accused it of. If the Revised Draft Regulation is halted, Chinese workers are truly being treated “unfairly” and there is “a lack of rule of law”.
Six major Chambers using their political influence to harm Chinese and Hong Kong workers' rights
The leaders of the six major Chambers hold many important official roles (please see below for details). For example, Irons Sze and Charles Yeung are both members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Chung-kong Chow is an unofficial member of the HKSAR Government's Executive Council. Their roles require them to see from the public's perspective, monitor the labour conditions at enterprises and raise proposals which are in the interests of the general public. However, their current practice is openly siding with the exploitative Hong Kong entrepreneurs, to deprive Chinese workers of their rights to collective bargaining and accuse workers of “using the public to pressurize the enterprises”.
As a member of the Executive Council (a core policy making body in advising the Chief Executive), Chung-kong Chow did not only fail to address the conflict of interest, but even took part in the petition to urge the Chief Executive in using Hong Kong Government's influence to block legislation in China. The petition also declared its disapproval of the rights of collective bargaining of the some 3 million employees in Hong Kong, calling the Revised Draft Regulation “would serve as an example for pressure groups in Hong Kong, in pushing for the legislation of the rights to collective bargaining in Hong Kong.”
The right to collectively bargain is internationally recognized as core labour rights. Enterprises should respect workers' rights to freely organize and join trade unions, as well as to collectively bargain, in resolving labour disputes. Without the legal guidelines, it is difficult to realize an effective collective bargaining mechanism. For example, on one hand, the employers or trade associations often refuse to recognize workers' representatives, let alone negotiating with them. On the other hand, even they have reached an agreement, without legal protection, its implementation is in vain. Given the power imbalance between employers and employees, workers can only discuss with the employers about their wages and welfares individually. The employers can easily take the “divide and rule”approach, and the collective interests of workers are at stake.
Thus, the HKCTU
1. condemns the proposal of halting the legislation of the Revised Draft Regulation made by the six major Chambers and the HKBCJC.
1) the Hong Kong Government to maintain its neutrality. When collecting opinions, it should consult stakeholders from all aspects, including the trade unions and labour organizations in Hong Kong.
2) the Chinese Government and the National People's Congress to pass the Revised Draft Regulation immediately, in order to implement concrete provisions of collective consultation and enhance the development of labour relations.
Major offices and titles of some of the chairpersons / presidents of the six major Chambers hold:
Irons Wing-wai Sze, president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, serves as member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Charles Yeung, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, awarded with Silver Bauhinia Star, serves as member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and appointed as Justice of the Peace
Stanley Lau, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, serves as Standing Committee Member of Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Chinese People‘s Political Consultative Conference and Justice of Peace
Chung-kong Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, serves as unofficial member of Executive Council and chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited
Shing Hum Chong, president of the Hong Kong Chinese Importers' & Exporters' Association, serves as Standing Committee Member of Huzhou Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and previously Standing Committee Member of Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
 The regulation was previously known as “Regulations on Collective Negotiation and Collective Contract in Enterprises of the Guangdong Province (Revised Draft)”.