HKCTU E-Newsletter

Workers is coming! Workers in the  Tiananmen Square at 1989

Workers is coming! Workers in the  Tiananmen Square at 1989

29 years ago, a people’s movement for democracy have united people in Hong Kong and mainland China, while it also revealed the nature of dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).   Workers and citizens in Hong Kong watched, in tears and with broken hearts, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) firing at protestors in Tiananmen Square in news reports.  29 years later, Hong Kong is also facing repression by the dictatorship of the CCP.  

Since Xi Jin-ping became the head of CCP, his iron-fist policy has put human rights activists in mainland China under the torture of government and the National Security, and Hong Kong’s democracy is also facing harsh repression.  The HKSAR government has followed the Xi regime and handled dissidents with high hand approach.  The CCP regime is determined to tighten Hong Kong’s political space, as observed from the disqualification of candidateship in the Legislative Council election in 2016 due to political position, and the disqualification of elected Legislative Councillors last year.   Stripping citizens’ rights to be elected with the accusation of “violation of Basic Law” align with the approach of the CCP’s “rule of law” which suppressed dissidents and civil society under the name of the law.

Globalization has boosted economy of China in the past 20 years.  Low labour cost and tax benefits have attracted manufacturers around the world to set up their factories in China, which resulted in economic growth of unprecedented speed.   However, it was the blood and sweat of Chinese workers which fuelled the high growth rate.   Endless over-time work and serious lack of occupational safety protection have put workers in dangerous working environments on daily basis.

The international financial crisis of 2008 has brought economic downturn worldwide and China, which relied heavily on export for its development, in particular faced a substantial decrease of economic growth rate.   Coupled with rise of trade protectionism in the USA, low domestic demand and saturation of large scale basic infrastructure in China, the Chinese government found it not possible to absorb excess capacity with its domestic economy.   Opportunity for foreign investment was badly needed for China to consume the excess capacity and maintain stable growth of domestic economy.  In 2013, Xi Jin-ping proposed the “One-belt-one-road” economic development plan, in the hope to consume domestic excess capacity through trade, basic infrastructure development and other economic cooperation with countries covered by the plan.  These countries would receive subsidies to improve their infrastructure through the cooperation plans, at the price of obtaining loans from mortgage on operation rights and giving priority to Chinese enterprises in project contracts.  Cooperation agreement also include terms to allow Chinese enterprises to bring in Chinese workers for the projects, as a way to consume excess capacities, which means job opportunities for local workers would not increase with development of projects, forming another economic suppression.

The “one-belt-one-road” strategy is not just an economic project, but also a master plan for China to expand its political influence.  According to recent statements of the CCP government, the strategy is also to promote the “Chinese model” to other developing countries as an alternative to “Western development model”, and to establish healthy “non-interfering” cooperation.  Under the “one-belt-one-road” investment and cooperation, training will be provided to government officials and “promote” the Chinese media, judiciary and party-state system to developing countries.   By exporting China’s authoritarian political system to other developing countries, it is to gain international recognition of the “Chinese model” and also to strengthen relations with countries along the “one-belt-one-road” and China’s political influence in the region, and eventually to promote China’s status in international political arena. 

Civil resistance has always been under suppression in the Chinese totalitarian regime.   However, even the harsh suppression by the Xi-regime could not put off all resistance from the civil society in mainland China.  Human right lawyers helping citizens to defend their lawful rights, and workers launching collective actions against exploitation by employers and enterprises are just some examples showing that suppression by the regime did not stop all resistance.   Workers affected by pneumoconiosis in Hunan have launched their second collective action 9 years later, cross-city labour actions by workers of tower crane and strikes by drivers of Lalamove during April to May are examples of workers’ struggle which were not stopped by high hand governance by the regime.

In 1989, students and workers joined hands in the Tiananmen Square to protest against the authoritarian state, and to request the CCP government to stop corruptions and build genuine democracy.   Thousands of workers in Beijing and other cities over the country got rid of control of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and set up their independent unions to support the students’ movement for democracy.   In Hong Kong, which were still under the rule of the British colony, over 1.5 million people went on street to support people in Tiananmen Square, and requested the Chinese government to materialize true democracy.  However, such request was considered as a formidable enemy by the dictatorship regime which was afraid to face challenges from the people.  The then leader of the CCP Deng Xiao-ping ordered enforcement of martial law and dispatched the PLA to suppress the “unrest”.  Subsequently, people in peaceful protest were killed.   29 years later, some people in Hong Kong are giving up people in mainland China and claimed that “commemoration of 4th June stand in the way of Hong Kong people’s identity building”, and rejected discussion of 4th June and inheriting the mission.  However, separating one-self from the history to achieve individual well-being is a regression.

As both people in Hong Kong and mainland China are facing repressions from totalitarian governments, we should unite and fight with other people in suffering, rather than concerned only with our own well-being.   The labour union movement is to advocate for workers’ unity and collective power to fight against exploitation of the capitalist, to get back our rights and benefits, and to defend workers’ dignity.  Only in unity and resistance that we have chance to overthrow the totalitarian regime, and that was the reason why workers and students fought for democracy and freedom in the Tiananmen Square in 1989.  The HKCTU will continue to plant our foot in Hong Kong and stay with the people under repression in mainland China to fight for democracy, human rights and workers’ dignity.   The spirit of the 1989 Movement shall be carried on as we continue our fight against the authoritarian regime.

An over-entertained labour day: can gala shows and awards safeguard workers’ dignity?

31

May 2018

As a tradition, parades take place in different cities on International Labour Day, to represent the solidarity between the working class and to inform the government and public about the problems workers still face. The parades aim to celebrate the contribution of workers, earn them respect and recognition from the public, who are mostly workers too. In Hong Kong, similar parades are also organized. Trade unions and labour organizations in Hong Kong would launch or join May Day parades, to raise their own concerns, such as long working hours, work safety, and salaries. Yet, just a stone's throw away, trade union in Shenzhen has a completely different interpretation of Labour Day.

All China Federation of Trade Unions (hereafter: ACFTU) is the only recognized trade union organization in China. It hosts different activities on Labour Day, to give credit to workers' contribution in building a "socialist society with Chinese characteristics"; to compliment certain "model workers", who are usually highly skilled workers, using their expertise to push for scientific or social advancement, to train others and etc. One of their so-called achievements would be "upholding and promoting the beliefs of the Chinese Communist Party", "implementing national direction and policy", if not all. In other words, their achievements are indeed the achievements of the party and the state. This year, ACFTU worked together with China Central Television to host a gala, broadcasting cultural activities to "promote the value of labour".

It is definitely a positive gesture, when workers' contribution is recognized and praised by the government and state. Yet, is there genuine respect to workers, while numerous workers, migrant workers are struggling to make their ends meet, enjoying little or no employment security? Especially after Xi Jinping's recent announcement on extracting non-capital function and policy to redistribute population of Beijing, authorities in many major cities such as Shenzhen and  Guangzhou started to use excuses such as "clearing up illegal construction, preventing potential safety hazards" to remove migrant workers. Some 10,000 migrant workers have lost their homes and belongings, some are forced to return to their home villages and some struggle for their survival in the cities.

Currently, labour rights in China is widely disregarded. Enterprises often ignore work safety regulations; when workers get injured or suffer from occupational diseases, they seldom pay for medical expenses and legal compensation. A silicosis-infected worker told us in an interview how the enterprise would prevent workers to get diagnosis from the occupational disease hospital; even the workers win the lawsuit, the government would delay the compensation procedure; the compensation often could not cover the medical expenses; workers and their families have to take casual works or borrow money from relatives to live on.

When workers' health and safety are not protected, government and enterprises fail to address their needs when they are seeking help, ACFTU's gala to present "model workers" is simply phoney. In reality, ACFTU turns a blind eye to the exploitation and inequality workers face, it fails to carry out its role as a trade union. Instead of spending a fortune in celebrating May Day, ACFTU should do a better job in improving labour conditions and promoting labour rights. After all, it is what a trade union is for.

 

Seven pneumatic drill workers detained in Shenzhen: missing compensation for occupational disease

31

May 2018

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Pneumatic drill workers (hereafter: PD workers) from Leiyang City of Hunan Province have been demanding compensation for their occupational disease from Shenzhen Government since 2009. This May, they came again to Shenzhen to reiterate their claim, but were met with police brutality.

Daozixiang is a well-known "silicosis village" in Leiyang City of Hunan Province. Many of its male villagers went to work as PD workers at construction sites in Shenzhen in the 1990s and 2000s. Inside potholes with a diameter of 1 meter to 5 meters, they drilled on granite and filled in explosives for foundation treatment. Such an operation created abundant dust while they were not informed about its health hazards. Most of them had only one tiny face mask, inhaled silica dust and thus suffered from silicosis.

Those who arrived Shenzhen in the early 1990s became the frontiers to fight for their rights to compensation. In 2009, more than 100 silicosis workers from Leiyang demanded an explosive enterprise in Shenzhen to compensate. The employer asked them to provide proof of their illness. Under the complicated and bureaucratic verification procedure, workers must first prove their labour relations, while many of them worked without contracts. Without employment contracts, the occupational disease hospital would not verify their illness. Outraged by the employer's use of administrative procedure to evade his responsibility, workers staged a collective complaint at the Shenzhen City Government. Eventually, workers with labour contracts were compensated as required by law, while workers without proof of labour relations received compensation from 70,000 to 130,000 yuan.

The collective action in 2009 has become a collective memory of these workers. This year, they came back to Shenzhen because some of them have spent all the compensation in medical expenses and want to demand further compensation; some had not been compensated because they had not been diagnosed with silicosis in 2009, but only learned about their illness in 2017, when the Hunan Government launched a silicosis check-up within the province. These workers were diagnosed to suffer from Stage 1 to Stage 3 of silicosis.

Now the Chinese government adopts a different strategy from 2009. In January 2018, it sent police and lawyers to meet workers, instructing them to settle the case through "legal procedure". Yet, could the workers wait till the "legal procedure" is over, especially those in Stage 2 and 3? In late April, workers made another visit to Shenzhen and were "talked into” going back to Hunan. After May Day, they came back and this time, Shenzhen government sent police forces, accused the sick workers with "disturbing public order", brutally attacked them and detained seven of them. Some workers fainted during the conflict.

Workers' protest started on 8th May and at the time of writing, Shenzhen's Letters and Visits Bureau has not met with the workers. In the past decade, these workers were subjected to repression and discrimination. The Shenzhen government blacklisted workers who were involved in the 2009 protest, to deny them re-employment. Now it even sends police to assault them. The society is sympathetic to these workers. Despite the repression, Foxconn workers raised a banner to support Leiyang workers' quest.

Nine years of labour struggle does not ended here. Despites, Shenzhen's skyscrapers have been built, workers from the grassroots are still struggling with silicosis everyday.

 
China’s widening income inequality sparks further labour actions

31

May 2018

The labour movement in China has appeared to go quiet after the crackdown on labour organizations, organizers, and leaders in Guangdong Province since December 2015. Yet, this silence does not signify a stop of labour struggle. It has just taken another form to meet the transformation of China's economy,

China's National Bureau of Statistics stated that China's Gini Index had hiked from 0.462 in 2015 to 0.465 in 2016. According to United Nations, a Gini Index higher than 0.4 is regarded as an indication of dangerous levels of income inequality. Peking University's research (2015) showed that the richest 1% of Chinese households owned one-third of the national wealth, while the poorest 25% held only 1% of the national wealth. Such an inequality is intensifying the class conflict in China.

At the eve of May Day, crane operators from 27 cities staged a strike to demand better labour conditions. Such a nationwide strike of a single industry has seldom seen in China and attracted the media attention in Hong Kong. At the same time, many van drivers (known as Lalamove) in China also went on strike in April and May, as enterprises reduced their pay scale. In recent years, it is common that workers from individual industries or enterprises organize nationwide strikes. In 2017 food delivery workers across the country protested; some months ago taxi drivers in various provinces went on strike; now the crane operators voice out for themselves, all indicate that workers are suffering from informalization and casualization of the labour market. It is noteworthy that all these workers appear to be “self-employed” with vaguely defined labour relations. They are the most vulnerable workers when facing subcontracting and false self-employment, and are usually not entitled to basic protection such as social security and work injury insurance.

Despite political crackdown, Chinese workers continue to organize themselves to fight for their rights. A widening disparity acts as a catalyst of social conflict and its impact is deepening. China has been pushing for economic transformation for some years, attempting to replace manufacturing jobs with service-industries. However, employers continues to adopt exploitative measures such as the introduction of labour informalization and casualization to further take advantage of workers. The grassroots workers realize the economic transformation has not improved their labour conditions, and the only way to defend themselves is to organize themselves.

It sounds rather similar to the situation in Hong Kong, namely workers did not benefit from the prosperity brought by economic transformation of the past two decade. Bar benders' strike (2007), dock workers' strike (2013) and Hoi Lai Estate cleaning workers' strike (2018) tell us about the exploitation workers face when their jobs are subcontracted and casualized. The strikes in both Hong Kong and China is a message to the authority: despite the sweeping political crackdown and capital hegemony, workers would stick together and fight for their rights. How to network, inspire and learn from each other, might be a lesson and even a new direction for workers in China and Hong Kong.

Local unions fighting against traps and exploitations of the imported workers in Hong Kong

11

Nov 2015

Local unions fighting against traps and exploitations of the imported workers in Hong Kong

An interview with Cheng Ching Fai, Community Care and Nursing Home Workers General Union

“The Imported labour in Hong Kong are working in a lawless world”, Brother Fai concluded his observations and experiences from workplace organizing in community care and nursing home sector which also apply to other sectors in Hong Kong.

“There is no mechanism to ensure labour protections for imported workers in Hong Kong. According to my experiences in helping the imported workers in elderly homes or nursing home in Hong Kong. Their wages are delayed and even unpaid. They work overtime unreasonably without any compensation. Many of them work 18-20 hours per day”, said by brother Cheng from CNWGU. That’s why the local employers tried to create difficulties of hiring staff locally in order to import workers from mainland China.

The Community Care and Nursing Home Workers General Union (hereafter: CNWGU) arranged for exco members to do undercover job applicants for investigating the recruitment process of various nursing homes. They found that the actual requirements of those nursing home were different from job advertisement. For example, the applicants were asked to accept 12 working hours per day instead of 9 hours per day which was written in the job advertisement. This was one of the tricks that how the local employers discouraged local applicants to apply the posts so that they could hire imported workers to take up these harsh positions.

 

According to brother Cheng, the workings conditions of local workers are not monitored as well, so no matter local or migrants have to defend their own labour rights actively. However, the imported workers do not have fair access to the information of labour rights protection in Hong Kong due to the irresponsibility of the government.

Information sessions by Labour Department for imported workers are nearly existed in name only. “The imported workers are supposed to attend this information session before signing employment contracts. However, the Labour Department makes it optional to the imported labour and even accept employers’ representatives to attend the sessions for their employees” Brother Cheng criticized this loose arrangement not only fail to respect the right to information of labour rights but also adversely affect the them to join or to form unions.

Brother Cheng said CNWGU have been always concerned the exploitations of imported workers in Hong Kong. He himself follows many complaint cases from individual members and provided these information to HKCTU for submission formal complaints to ILO concerning the failures of HK government in protection labour rights of migrants and imported labour. “We are worried that the HK government continues to tolerate these exploitations of migrant workers and to expand the unprotected importation of labour to more sectors including public owned services.” Brother Cheng stressed that both local and migrants should join hand in hand to fight against the unjust employment system and to ask for stronger law enforcement.

 

HKCTU E newsletter NO.9: The Unionists for Change

11

Nov 2015

The Unionists for Change

In its history of a quarter century, the HKCTU’s most impressive image to the public might be its banners and slogans.  But behind the scenes, it was the each and every one of the unionists who wrote the history of 25-year independent labor movement in Hong Kong with their live stories. 

To commemorate its 25th Anniversary, the HKCTU organized the Ever-fighting Unionist Award in honor of the outstanding unionists who brought changes to lives to the workers and the labor movement.  The independent panel selected 5 Ever-fighting Unionists from 13 candidates.  The panel was comprised of Professor Christine Fang, Faculty of Social Sciences, the University of Hong Kong; Ms. Mak Ying –Ting senior journalist; Mr. Choy Chi-Keung Ivan, senior lecturer of Department of Government and Public Administration, and Mr. Lee Cheuk-Yan, General Secretary of HKCTU.  

The latest HKCTU News covered abstracts of interviews with the 5 awardees (full interview reports are available on HKCTU Facebook Page).  Their stories shared common themes: selflessness, perseverance and camaraderie.   Let’s enjoy the light shed and warmth brought by their stories. 

A reader by the dock  Chan Yan Wo

Chan is called by his friend as “White-head” for his signatory white hair.  In shirt, shorts and canvas shoes and carrying a cloth bag, White-head Chan looks like a literary youth.  The young White-Head Chan had been a primary school teacher for 3 years, before he become a worker at the dock and then a union leader. 

Becoming a docker

Chan was born in a family of workers, and the Red Little Book of Mao Zhe-Dong used to be his daily read.  Upon his graduation, Chan joined the Pu Kiu College with passion and ideals.  After a few years as a teacher, Chan resigned from the position and started his career is internal design.  When he set up his contracting company in home renovation business in the 1980s, Chan’s business flew with the economy.  In the 1990s, Chan’s business started to plunge with the transition of economy.  In 1994, Chan changed his career again and become a checker at the dock due to family reasons. 

After working at the dock for 1 year, Chan was caught in a labor dispute.  That was the first time I heard of HKCTU. said Chan.  Dockers faced worse treatment after the incident with cut in head-count and salary due to downturn of economy.  In 2005, dockers launched a campaign to dun the sub-contractors for salary for holiday.  Chan took up the banner when the person supposed to hold the banner did not show up, and that started his path to union movement.  When the financial storm overwhelmed the world in 2008, dockers salary was lower than 1996.  Chan realized that a stronger leadership is needed in the union.  He started to connect the workers and built the union core members gradually.

Camaraderie in union movement

In March 2013, the longest labor dispute in Hong Kong since 1970s broke out at the dock.  The veteran Chan talked about the heartless employers and furious workers with calmness.  But tears ran down from his face when he recalled memories of a brother in arms for many years.  This fellow worker was diagnosed with cancer before the strike was launched, and he actively participated in union activities despite his health condition for the welfare of the workers.  He passed away before the strike was launched.  Chan’s favorite story from his readings was a Buddhist story:  Long time ago, a fire broke out in the forest.  The parrot tried to put out the fire by wetting its feather and sprinkled the water on the fire, knowing that this would be of minimal use.  The parrot’s perseverance moved the gods and a heavy rain saved the forest.  “I am not waiting for a savior.  I would rather be the parrot, do as much as I can and influence others,” said Chan.  Over the years, the Union of Hong Kong Dockers has grown from around 30 members to nearly 500 members.  This is something that the White-Head Chan has been working for.

A Pair of Working Hands - Bo Lai-Wan

 

 

It would probably be the domestic workers to save you from the nightmare of a dusty home.  Bo, the vice-president of Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union, got a pair of magical hands that saved many families from nightmares.  But it was not without price for Bo.  She could not pass the e-Channel at the immigration because her finger-prints are so blurred, long-term intensive labor work has caused permanent joint pain and muscle strain.  Despite all the sores, Bo thanks the job for connecting her with the union, and making her from a “chicken” to a female union leader at the front.

Holding Banner with Shaking Hands

Bo became a live-in domestic helper since 17, and became a domestic worker at 27, a few years after getting married and having her first child.  Being a domestic worker is a lonely job and you are on your own when facing labor dispute or household accidents.  When the HKCTU set up the Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union in 2001, it was the first time for Bo to witness the power of union.  A group of women workers, led by the union executive, went to negotiation with the agency because two domestic workers were coerced into signing a self-employment contract and lost their insurance and fringe benefits.  “I had little idea of what we were doing.  I was literally shaking when I was holding the banner,” said Bo.  The action eventually ended with the agency signing employment contracts with the two women workers again.  Bo, the young woman worker who has joined labor movement for only one week, thought to herself, “I do have power!”  

In 2005, a union member hurt her lower back at work but the employer did not accept the responsibility.  The member was so worried that the medical expenses would be a huge burden to the family that she killed herself by jumping off from a building.  Bo said they have proposed the government to set up a centralized work injury compensation fund with major contribution from the government.  But the proposal was suspended with no timeline.

Family is No Longer Anti-politics

Being a union leader, Bo sometimes might have neglected the family.  But in 2003, Bo’s husband who used to dislike politics joined the Anti-Clause 23 march.  “He used to say I was a trouble-maker.  I felt so touched seeing him joining the march,” said Bo.  Bo’s children were less supportive to social movement compared to her husband. It was not until the Umbrella Movement last year that her son gave a hand when Bo was distributing Chinese dessert with other union members.  When she had to leave in the mid of a family holiday trip to support the movement, her son-in-law said, “You have your destiny.” 

Bo said she probably would still be an ordinary housewife who keeps mouth shut on injustice. 

Defying Fate for 20 Years—Cheung Lai-ha

 

Often working until midnight, Cheung Lai-ha, the general secretary of the Retail, Commercial, and Clothing Industries General Union (RCCIGU), is always the last to leave office.  Lai-ha joined the union 20 years ago and often bemoans her lack of education, “most women, who are fifty years of age like I am, had to start work and helped out the family when they were little.  I am one of the exception to work as a full time unionist.”

Started Sewing at the Age of 14

Lai-ha has four sisters and brothers, “when my siblings had gone to bed, I would help out my mother at night.” during the sixties, many factories outsourced their garment productions.  Thus, a lot of women chose to work at home so that they can take care of their families, “my mother sewed, while I trimmed and sewed, and......napped.” Cheung's mother passed away when she was in elementary school.  So she had borrowed an ID card from a senior to work in a garment factory and worked for 20 years since then.  She started with menial duties in the factory as a child apprentice (child labour who were still in their formative stage and not familiar with the production.  The factory only provided meals in place of wages), “but I don't like these kind of work, I really craved for sewing” she would later proclaimed.  So Lai-ha started to learn tailoring when she was 14 and started to make clothes for her younger sister.  “I love to make shirts and blouses and I could make clothes for my 12 years old sister when I was 14 years old.” She said with pride.

Went to Court Five Days a Week

From the early nineties, industrial migration began and factories closures became frequent.  “Non payment of severance pay and wages were very common.”  Cheung was elected as the president of the RCCIGU in 1991 and would eventually become a full time union organizer the next year.  During its height, Lai-ha would have to go to the court five days a week and handle two grievances per day.  “All the secretaries and judges in the court knew me.”  She remembered accompanying a group of workers to protest in front of their boss's home by coach, “some female workers had lived and worked in the same neighborhood their whole lives.  For many of them, that protest was the first time they left their neighborhood.”

As the garment industry has now almost disappeared nowadays, “maybe it is time for the garment industry to accept their fate,” but not Cheung Lai-ha.  In recent years, she even start organizing the insurance industry.  However, people are less willing to join the union due to individualism.  “I am tired!” she bluntly stressed, “I am ready to retire one day.”  But before that day comes, she will continue to make more people understand, “solidarity can make a change!”

Driving the Route to Struggle——Chung Chung-fai

Days in, days out, people rushes on and off buses without knowing their bus drivers; but Chung Chung-fai is a familiar name within the labour movement circle, “Everybody in First Bus knows Brother Fai.”  The president of New World First Bus Company Staff Union (NWFBCSU), Chung Chung-fai lives up to his reputation by defending the rights of his colleagues undeterred for 17 years.

Awaken by the gunfire in Tiananmen

On the day of the interview, Brother Fai just finished his shift from 0600 to 1500 on route 116, “the shift is good, it is favourable to union duties,” he claimed.  And it all started from 36 years ago, when Hong Kong was still looming over the shadow of a recession, “It was not easy to find a job and I just got my driver's license, so I gave it a go in the bus company, and this is where I am now.”  But the comforts in stability was eventually disturbed by the gunfire of the Tiananmen Square and spontaneous strike for pension reformation initiated by the CMB employees in 1989, the incompetency of the FTU and TUC drove Brother Fai to make a stand and fight.

The “Pipe President” Took a Risk

In 1998, when First Bus took over CMB's franchise, Chung Chung-fai also set up the NWFBCSU.   Battles after battles, the union's firm stance in defending workers' rights saw the membership rose from less than 100 to more than 1,200 nowadays.  “Eight industrial actions in five years, it was really wild.”  The media named him the “Pipe President”, because he likes smoking his pipe while coming up with strategies for the union.  In 2003, the company planned to replace the year-end double pay with discretionary bonus after SARS.  The union decided to fight against it.  On Brother Fai's insistence, the union won the battle.  “I thought we had to take the risk and intimidate the management.”  The company gave in and eventually reached an agreement with the leftist union on restoring the year-end double pay even before the industrial action started.

As working conditions continue to improve, the union planned for succession as early as 2006 and there will be post-90s members taking over as board member next year.  Meanwhile, Brother Fai still spends a lot of time talking about politics with his colleagues during his monthly visits to different terminals, “I would tell them there are much more in life than making a living.”  In daily life, Brother Fai comes across with all sorts of people as a bus driver. “There are people who wouldn't pay for full fares while there are some who would feel ashamed for paying 10 cents short.”  Meanwhile, he is also grateful for the support he received from his family, “I consider my wife supporting my position when she does not say no.”  Asked if the veteran will fade out from labour movement when he retires in two to three years, Brother Fai replied flat out, “of course not, my brothers will kill me.”

 

 

Fearless of Storm——Wong Wai Man

 

The reminiscences of the dockers strike of 2013 may still be on the horizon, but as early as 2007, there was another strike that was parallel in terms of magnitude and lengththe 36-days barbender strike.  The incumbent president of the Bar Bending Solidarity Union, Wong Wai Man (Ah Man), was an activist during the barbender strike.

Proud to Fight for a Life-Saver

Ah Man has started become a barbender 30 years ago.  In 1997, a barbender's salary was $1200 per day.  However, their wages started to slump from 2000 until it had gone down to as low as $700 to $800 per day.  When the wages could go down no more, employers began to extent working hours by half an hour to one hour per day.  Strike was inevitably broke out in the August of 2007.  Ah Man could still recall during the first rally when typhoon no. 8 was hoisted, he volunteer to be a marshal and dealt with the police, I was the only Marshal on site he said tongue-in-cheek.  After the rally, Ah Man was elected as one of the workers representative and they were able to fight for a pay rise to $860 per day and an 8-hour working day was restored.  Subsequently, the independent Bar Bending Solidarity Union was established, and they are now able to negotiate with the employers on wages annually. 

After years of experience in negotiating with the employer, Ah Man finds it most rewarding in fighting for the introduction of a 15-minutes morning break time.  Since it was difficult to perform manual labour under hot weather,  there were cases where workers suffered from fatal heat stroke.  This 15-minutes morning break time may seem trivial, but for many workers, this can be a life-saver.

 

Passionate with His Wife

In appearance, Ah Man is perhaps a very tough guy, but he can be very sensitive in front of his wife.  When Ah Man was divorced in 2000, he was caught in a low due to a broken marriage and economic difficulties.  But he was fortunate to have met his second wife from community work.  Under the encouragement of his wife, Ah Man was able to regain his confidence.  He said his wife is really passionate about social affairs, and they both held the same beliefs.  During the Umbrella Movement, they were both actively involved in logistic duties in the occupied zone and Ah Man was among one of the arrestees in Admiralty.

Ah Man was educated in school run by church when he was young, so he was deeply affected by the Christian value of “equality”.  “If I am the only person being exploited, it is not a big deal at all because I am a very easy going person.  But if a large group of people being exploited, I will definitely stand up for it.”  Does it worth it?  Ah Man just smiled and reiterate his motto, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.

HKCTU E newsletter NO.8

26

Jul 2015

HKCTU E newsletter NO.8

MUSIC THAT SINGS THE VOICE OF THE WORKERS:  INTERVIEW WITH UNION ORGANIZER STANLEY HO

“I hope that this is a sequel of the Umbrella Movement.  Because the pursuit of democracy is a form of social concern, and the voice of the workers also needs social concern.  As the occupation movement has drawn to a close, I turned to music to draw social concern for workers rights”

 

“You can't change the world overnight, but music is long-lasting, it has the power to accumulate strength”

Adrian Chow hopes that music can gather strength for workers

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HKCTU 25th Anniversary Review: Marching to the Light
 

As we are entering into the 25th anniversary of the HKCTU, Hong Kong is also arriving at a crossroad of unknown.  While moving forward in darkness, it is important that look into our previous experiences in Labour Movement to shed light on a brighter future.

 

In the next four editions of the HKCTU Solidarity Post, we will take a look at how sisters and brothers of the HKCTU put forward the four motto of the HKCTU “Solidarity, Rice Bowl, Democracy, and Juctice” in 25 years of independent unionism.

Read More
Say No to Exploitation: Defending Collective Agreement in Cathay's Labour Dispute
 

The Flight Attendant Union (FAU) demonstrated what is meant by “Solidarity is Strength”.  To protest against benefits cuts, the FAU launched industrial actions from May 19th.  Through gradual escalation of actions, the company was prompted to negotiation with the union on May 29th.  The president of FAU, Ms. Dora Lai, shared her views on the strategies and effects of the actions.


 
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HKCTU E-Newsletter No.7 HKCTU in support of Umbrella Movement

02

Jan 2015

 

Companions under a stormy sky

Workers holding up umbrellas for democracy and livelihood


The strike led by college students, fighting for the democratic universal suffrage which Hong Kong people well deserve, was attacked by police with tear gas on 28 September 2014. Most of people woke up the next morning to find that Hong Kong was transformed. We were disconcerted by the rampant tyranny, yet be inspired by the courage of our fellow Hongkongers, as a line from Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” could possibly describe it.

To build a fair and just society, one's rights to participate politically, to improve people's livelihood in a democratic manner, regardless her / his background or class, is always crucial. The HKCTU newsletter has interviewed three workers with different backgrounds, to see if their stories in the Umbrella Movement might echo yours.

[Read all interviews in our website]

Accustomed to struggles, occupation as to safeguard livelihood

Interview with Ka-ho, an occupant from the real estate sector

Ka-ho, a strong guy working in a property agency, has been carrying a big backpack since Occupy Central kicked off. After work, he would go to occupied zones in Admiralty or Mongkok, where he stays till late or sometimes overnights. Inside his backpack, you can find a helmet, gloves, goggles, a mat, some war-game and hiking equipment he used years before. Since the last month, he has been carrying them to work everyday.
Ka-ho takes care of rental issues in a property agency. After graduating from a university, he joined a property agency, hoping to learn how the property market works. He was first working in the area of property management and later joins the rental department. “My main task is to rent out the properties of the company, by coming up with prices agreed by the clients.”
[Read more]
 

Moral responsibility  in troubled times

“Strike to support students”, Chow Kim-ho 

 

The strike led by college students, fighting for the democratic universal suffrage which Hong Kong people well deserve, was attacked by police with tear gas on 28 September 2014. Most of people woke up the next morning to find that Hong Kong was transformed. We were disconcerted by the rampant tyranny, yet be inspired by the courage of our fellow Hongkongers, as a line from Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” could possibly describe it.

To build a fair and just society, one's rights to participate politically, to improve people's livelihood in a democratic manner, regardless her / his background or class, is always crucial. The HKCTU newsletter has interviewed three workers with different backgrounds, to see if their stories in the Umbrella Movement might echo yours.
[Read more]

HKCTU in support of 

Umbrella Movement


Led by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Scholarism and Occupy Central with Peace and Love, the Umbrella Movement is also well supported by activists of the social movement and labour movement, each plays her/his role devotedly. The HKCTU has been facilitating the Movement attentively and some of its works have not been made public. The following paragraphs document the participation of HKCTU's committee members and its staff members, to ensure their efforts would not be forgotten. 
[Read more]

People under the “stage”
Under the footbridge to Admiralty Centre in the Occupied Zone of Admiralty, a small stage was set up and named as the “grand stage”. The role of grand stage is to release news and host sharing sessions every night. W.S, an officer of the HKCTU is one of the volunteers running the grand stage. The volunteers plan the daily thematic sharing and contact the relevant speakers to come to the sharing.
She remembers her work on 8th and 9th November the most. There were times when some others were trying to crack down the grand stage. On one hand, they questioned the grand stage's legitimacy, while on the other hand, they attempted to occupy the grand stage for their own speeches. Such an illogical attempt was seen as a mean to destruct the movement. The grand stage indeed reserves time for free discussions and volunteers like W.S. have been working as a bridge between the people and the conductor on the stage.

[Read all interviews in our website]
Pickets to block the movement breakers
Wah-hei, a committee member of the Personal And Community Services Workers General Union serves as a picket, to keep order and manage the crowd. It might sound easy but in fact, he faces challenges every day. Sometimes there are tens of thousands of participants in an action and conflicts are inevitable, “if they are not crossing the line or affecting others, in general, we won't interfere.” he says.
Yet, pickets would actively surround and block those, who intentionally come to the occupied zone to make troubles. “Once, the blue ribbons (anti-occupation) gang came to make troubles. We, the pickets organized a human chain to block them away from several hundred occupants. We were in a stalemate for almost an hour. When work hours of the blue ribbons gang are up, they just left.”
Bar-bender couple at the resources centre
Many of our activists have been working behind the scene in this movement, such as Wong Wai-man, a committee member of the Bar Bending Solidarity Union and his wife Maggie. In 2007, Wong led a 36-day strike of bar benders and now, Mr and Mrs Wong decided to stay behind, to help sorting and distributing resources, registering information of borrowers of tents and sleeping bags. Seeing a some-60-day occupation, Wong is worried. “Resources were pouring in in the beginning and now, they are torn and worn.” In any case, the Wong’s dedication to the movement, “we hope that the public could wake up and stand firm.”
Legal support team for detainees at the front-line
When police starts to detain protestors, there is a legal support volunteer team, who dress themselves in green to provide legal support, arrange lawyers to go to the police station and safeguard detainees' rights. Ngai, a HKCTU officer is one of them.
Being at front-line, Ngai observes a worrying trend of police's excessive use of force. On the night of 15th October, the police has driven the protestors from Lung Wo Road to Tamar Park. As everyone would have expected the police to stop using force at that point, “we can't believe that the police would keep hitting protestors with batons. Many protestors, without any resistance, were subdued by the police on the ground. These measures could only take place when the police was arresting armed suspects in the past, but are now imposed on unarmed citizens.”
Civil disobedience comes with a price and the participants are aware of the potential consequences they would have to bear. “Here is a very sad line, the only price for freedom is freedom.'  Ngai lamented. Over the past decades, the Hong Kong people had tried every way to lobby for a democratic future, yet the Government failed to put forward a fair and democratic political reform proposal.  The Umbrella Movement opens an era that the Hong Kong people have waken up from illusions and are trying to take back their future, through civil disobedience. 

Democracy and labour rights blocked! Who can clear it up?

Mung Siu-tat, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

I took part in the civil disobedience action to protect the Occupied Zone on 11 December 2014 and was arrested in Harcourt Road. The police escorted me to Kwai Chung Police Station and my charges are unlawful assembly and obstructing the work of police. I am now on bail on my own recognizance and will have to report to the police station in early January.

Some might say, yesterday’s action was to complete the last step of civil disobedience, namely, to bear legal responsibility and the consequences of our resistance, to uphold the rule of law. Sorry! That is not how I see it. I must clarify that I went out yesterday, not for the above-mentioned purpose. When rich people could make use of injunctions to eliminate the voices of the powerless, when China’s National People’s Congress could override the courts and make arbitrary interpretation of the Basic Law, I cannot convince myself that bearing legal responsibility of these unjust laws (including Public Order Ordinance) can be beneficial to the justice. I simply do not see the rule of law in the midst of these laws.

Some memories kept coming back to me, when I was waiting for the police’s clearance at the Occupied Zone: in 2007, the barbenders blocked Ice House Street, where the old government headquarters used to be, to protest against Matthew Cheung, Secretary of Labour and Welfare Bureau, who turned a blind eye to workers’ hardship; in 2013, dock workers were ordered to leave the dock they had worked day and night as the employer applied an injunction from court, and etc. Many of my colleagues from the labour movement joined the last civil disobedience action in Admiralty, to carry out a belief that we unionists have been convinced and shared, from the barbenders’ strike, dockers’strike and many other labour movements. 

We believe that laws should not override democracy and labour rights which we are entitled to. In fact, we should be particularly alerted, when laws are becoming a tool of the rich and the government. Workers are not going to be limited by unjust laws. If we obey injunctions and Public Order Ordinance each time, we cannot organize any collective action to fight for our dignity.
After nearly two decades in the labour movement, probably a fourth of my whole life, I have witnessed too much exploitation at workplace and social injustice and I keep being inspired by workers’ resistance. As a trade unionist, my nature is to fight for those who have worked hard honestly, to help them and their families take back their dignity. Yet, I must admit to my conscience: it is impossible to keep my faith and carry out my work, without the protection from a democratic system.

If we would accept the political reform proposal from the National People’s Congress, the government would only have the interests of the business sector in mind, as they are the few but powerful nominators. It implies universal labour rights, such as standard working hours, right to collective bargaining, universal pension fund, would continue to be “blocked” by the functional constituencies. When the roads are occupied, bailiff and the police would conduct the clearance, yet, what happen if our democratic rights and labour rights are “blocked”? If we don’t join force, who can clear up this government?

In future, we might encounter more arrests and accusations, but we are not going to back off. The independent labour movement is determined to fight for genuine universal suffrage and we will take up the responsibility with other civil society organizations, to plant the seeds of democracy throughout our network. We are aiming at a bottom up social reform, with democratisation of labour relations and building up democratic unions as our strategies. We will fight till we win.

Mung sit-tat 

Dec 12 2014
[Read in our website]

 
 
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HKCTU in support of Umbrella Movement

02

Jan 2015

HKCTU in support of 

Umbrella Movement


Led by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Scholarism and Occupy Central with Peace and Love, the Umbrella Movement is also well supported by activists of the social movement and labour movement, each plays her/his role devotedly. The HKCTU has been facilitating the Movement attentively and some of its works have not been made public. The following paragraphs document the participation of HKCTU's committee members and its staff members, to ensure their efforts would not be forgotten. 

People under the “stage”
Under the footbridge to Admiralty Centre in the Occupied Zone of Admiralty, a small stage was set up and named as the “grand stage”. The role of grand stage is to release news and host sharing sessions every night. W.S, an officer of the HKCTU is one of the volunteers running the grand stage. The volunteers plan the daily thematic sharing and contact the relevant speakers to come to the sharing.
She remembers her work on 8th and 9th November the most. There were times when some others were trying to crack down the grand stage. On one hand, they questioned the grand stage's legitimacy, while on the other hand, they attempted to occupy the grand stage for their own speeches. Such an illogical attempt was seen as a mean to destruct the movement. The grand stage indeed reserves time for free discussions and volunteers like W.S. have been working as a bridge between the people and the conductor on the stage.
 

Pickets to block the movement breakers

Wah-hei, a committee member of the Personal And Community Services Workers General Union serves as a picket, to keep order and manage the crowd. It might sound easy but in fact, he faces challenges every day. Sometimes there are tens of thousands of participants in an action and conflicts are inevitable, “if they are not crossing the line or affecting others, in general, we won't interfere.” he says.

Yet, pickets would actively surround and block those, who intentionally come to the occupied zone to make troubles. “Once, the blue ribbons (anti-occupation) gang came to make troubles. We, the pickets organized a human chain to block them away from several hundred occupants. We were in a stalemate for almost an hour. When work hours of the blue ribbons gang are up, they just left.”

Bar-bender couple at the resources centre

Many of our activists have been working behind the scene in this movement, such as Wong Wai-man, a committee member of the Bar Bending Solidarity Union and his wife Maggie. In 2007, Wong led a 36-day strike of bar benders and now, Mr and Mrs Wong decided to stay behind, to help sorting and distributing resources, registering information of borrowers of tents and sleeping bags. Seeing a some-60-day occupation, Wong is worried. “Resources were pouring in in the beginning and now, they are torn and worn.” In any case, the Wong’s dedication to the movement, “we hope that the public could wake up and stand firm.”

Legal support team for detainees at the front-line

When police starts to detain protestors, there is a legal support volunteer team, who dress themselves in green to provide legal support, arrange lawyers to go to the police station and safeguard detainees' rights. Ngai, a HKCTU officer is one of them.

Being at front-line, Ngai observes a worrying trend of police's excessive use of force. On the night of 15th October, the police has driven the protestors from Lung Wo Road to Tamar Park. As everyone would have expected the police to stop using force at that point, “we can't believe that the police would keep hitting protestors with batons. Many protestors, without any resistance, were subdued by the police on the ground. These measures could only take place when the police was arresting armed suspects in the past, but are now imposed on unarmed citizens.”

Civil disobedience comes with a price and the participants are aware of the potential consequences they would have to bear. “Here is a very sad line, the only price for freedom is freedom.'  Ngai lamented. Over the past decades, the Hong Kong people had tried every way to lobby for a democratic future, yet the Government failed to put forward a fair and democratic political reform proposal.  The Umbrella Movement opens an era that the Hong Kong people have waken up from illusions and are trying to take back their future, through civil disobedience. 

Companions under a stormy sky—Workers holding up umbrellas for democracy and livelihood

02

Jan 2015

 
 

Companions under a stormy sky

Workers holding up umbrellas for democracy and livelihood


The strike led by college students, fighting for the democratic universal suffrage which Hong Kong people well deserve, was attacked by police with tear gas on 28 September 2014. Most of people woke up the next morning to find that Hong Kong was transformed. We were disconcerted by the rampant tyranny, yet be inspired by the courage of our fellow Hongkongers, as a line from Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” could possibly describe it.

To build a fair and just society, one's rights to participate politically, to improve people's livelihood in a democratic manner, regardless her / his background or class, is always crucial. The HKCTU newsletter has interviewed three workers with different backgrounds, to see if their stories in the Umbrella Movement might echo yours.

Accustomed to struggles, occupation as to safeguard livelihood

Interview with Ka-ho, an occupant from the real estate sector

Ka-ho, a strong guy working in a property agency, has been carrying a big backpack since Occupy Central kicked off. After work, he would go to occupied zones in Admiralty or Mongkok, where he stays till late or sometimes overnights. Inside his backpack, you can find a helmet, gloves, goggles, a mat, some war-game and hiking equipment he used years before. Since the last month, he has been carrying them to work everyday.

Ka-ho takes care of rental issues in a property agency. After graduating from a university, he joined a property agency, hoping to learn how the property market works. He was first working in the area of property management and later joins the rental department. “My main task is to rent out the properties of the company, by coming up with prices agreed by the clients.”

Pro-business government with ridiculous policies

The Umbrella Movement is all about genuine universal suffrage. Yet, the current electoral  mechanism, i.e. functional constituencies and the election of the chief executive, is  heavily skewed in favor of the real estate hegemony. How does an employee in this sector see such a contradiction? “There is certainly a contradiction.” Ka-ho admits. “Sometimes I quote a price and I feel it is indeed overcharging.” “I try to be more gentle to old customers. Sometimes they tell me they can't afford it and I will tell my supervisor, then s/he would recommend a milder rent hike.”

Working in a property agency, he earns HKD14,000 a month. After his contribution to the mandatory provident fund (MPF), he would be considered as not qualified to vote by CY Leung's standard. Ka-ho has followed the news closely, but the Umbrella Movement is the first one he truly participants. Since Leung's administration, “our society has become so divided. Many of those pro-government groups are being organized and we have never seen such a thing before.” His commitment is fueled by Leung's continuous lies, the pro-Beijing parties' attitudes, and Legislator Ng Leung-sing's forcible approval of the initial funding for Northeast New Territories Development Plan at the Finance Committee.

Resistance becoming a way of life

“Then it comes a realization: all this unfairness I have witnessed, is coming from an unfair system.” Undemocratic electoral mechanism which gives power to a handful of tycoons, who can only work out policies which are benefiting the rich. Quoting a daily-life example, he says, “as simple as buying a bottle of water, a small shop used to sell it for HKD2, but then the Link acquired the Housing Authority shopping centres, renovated them, and raised rents. This has led to local shops being pushed out, higher prices, and the dominance of chain stores within the estates. I can now only buy it from 7-Eleven and it costs HKD6 or 7 for the same bottle of water.”

The Umbrella Movement has left Ka-ho with deeper thoughts. In the past, he considered himself as a liberal and had serious reservations about legal minimum wages. “Time has proven it. The legal minimum wages have not affected the economy. Seeing it differently, with some 20 dollars an hour and 18 work hours a day, can one make the ends meet?”. “For pension security, any amount of the over-budgeted government project could be enough to serve as the Seed Fund of the universal pension scheme.” While some criticized the universal pension scheme would be unfair, Ka-ho says, “I might need it one day, or my mother, my family will need it. The current MPF doesn't help. It just sucks out our money.”

He give a quick and direct answer when being asked how he feels about the future of this Movement, “I will stay as long as this Movement needs me. We are out to demand something and so far, we haven't got any. How can we retreat? Hongkongers are very flexible, we can make occupying as a way of life. Once I had to go home immediately after work and I forgot how to do it, from office directly to home...” It seems he has made resistance as a part of his life.

 

Moral responsibility  in troubled times

“Strike to support students”, Chow Kim-ho

It is not difficult to spot Chow Kim-ho among the students, aged and experienced, this some 40 years old stage designer states, “I am striking to support the students!”

“Strike for a better future”, from witnesses of Hong Kong's democratic movement

Before the HKCTU's call of a general strike on 29 September, Brother Ho has already started a personal strike to support this Movement. “The moment the students rushed in and took back the Civic Square on 26 September, I knew that there is still hope in Hong Kong.”

“The more civil participation, the more people would be concerned about democratic movement and keep an eye on government's governance. The social movement in the past decades has not achieved anything, even the June Fourth Massacre has only led to emigration. We are not going to lose this time.” Chow says.

Except for a few nights when he was sick, Brother Ho insists to stay in Mongkok with his “Shandong gang” in Mongkok. He told his employer, “I am not coming back to work before the occupation is over.”  He is lucky enough to have an understanding employer, someone who has experienced the radical social movement in the 1970s, the first direct election in 1988 and witnessed the democratic movement in Hong Kong for over a quarter of a century. Being sympathetic to students, his employer gives him full support.

Keeping on struggles, taking back our parliament and future

Worried about the students? How about his own livelihood then? “The movement is initiated by students, it means they would have to pay a bigger price. For me, I have a family, my career and a home, while the students have nothing! They even run a risk of being prosecuted. Hong Kong is our home and we, the middle-aged, have at least some savings to keep us running, but how about the students? They need support from you and me, their fellow Hongkongers.” he explains. The future of Hong Kong might turn out like Brother Ho describes, namely, the younger generation is paying the price to realize justice and true democracy. Everything is possible.

Brother Ho jokingly describes his wages are merely above the legal minimum wages. Before the legislation of minimum wages, he can barely make the ends meet. “A whole generation has lost their dignity at work, this can't be compensated by the current legislation.” he recalls. The calls for a legal minimum wages were first heard in the 1990s in Hong Kong, but with the functional constituencies dominating the Legislative Council, the parliament of Hong Kong and serving the interests of the business sector, the legislation of minimum wages was only made possible in 2010. “We have to keep fighting, to retake the Legco is our only choice!”

Brother Ho is a chain-smoker, what are his thoughts behind all the smoke? Is it our future? Or the future of students who are sleeping soundly in the tents? “I have a son of my own, but many students here consider me as their father.” Brother Ho reflects. Each Hongkonger is responsible to change this city and the future of our next generation is in our hands.

The occupation might only last for a while, but resistance is a lifelong quest. The most beautiful moment of the Umbrella Movement is, it gives the whole Hong Kong a chance to think and reflect, when busy streets are paralyzed to give people the space to rethink about the ridiculousness of Hong Kong. Why should people work like robots but have no chance to enjoy life? Why economic development has left the grassroots behind? Why social resources have ignored the underprivileged? These thoughts will lead us to go forward, to make Hong Kong a more just and more democratic society.

E-newsletter Issue - No.3 - Population Policy: For whom?

17

Dec 2014

Population Policy: For whom?

 

Employers create labour shortage

The government relieved the population policy consultation paper in late October. The main issues raised in the consultation paper are the aging population and the shortage of workforce. The HKCTU is afraid that the government will import more foreign workers.

The paper echoes the voice of business sector. Shirley Yuen, president of Chamber of Commerce recently asked the Government to import low skilled workers while many industries have difficulties in recruitment.

 [read more]

 

Sharing Prosperity and Combating Inflation 7% pay rise next year

In early November 2013, the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong recommended employers to offer a pay rise of 4% in 2014. The media and some commentators focused in praising the recommendation, as for the first time, is close to the estimated inflation. Indeed, the wages increase recommendations the Employers' Federation made in the previous years, have clearly reflected that the Hong Kong employers would deliberately exclude the working class to share prosperity. Worse than that, the often below-inflation pay rises caused many to suffer from a fall of living standard.

[read more]

Swire-Coca Cola Broke Their Priomises Workers Staged Strike for CBA

"Strike for a written agreement? What sort of agreement is it?"
When Swire Beverages (Hong Kong) Employees General Union staged a strike on 3 October 2013, you might probably be puzzled. The conflict was not arisen all of a sudden. The employees only went on strike after suffering from longstanding and unbearable bitterness. The following is a story of their struggle. 

[read more]

 


The Birth of International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF)

Domestic workers of the world unite on October 28th!  We have done it, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) was founded to organize domestic workers of the world.   When the constitution was passed, 200 people in the community hall of the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, chanted and dances in joy, waving their ballots and embracing each other in solidarity.  The venue echoed with the slogan "Sí, se puede!" (We did it!) and "Solidarity Forever!".

[read more]

E-Newsletter No.6 - Do You Want To See Fake Democracy From The Mainland Transplanted To Hong Kong?

05

Sep 2014

For months, the propaganda machine of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, Government High Officials, the Pro-Establishment Camp, and Lackeys of the Mainland are using their carrots and sticks as an attempt to persuade the Hong Kong people to “Take it First” and accept a fake Democracy for the 2017 Chief Executive Election.

So, what kind of proposal they want us to “take”?  And are these proposals “acceptable”?  This issue of the HKCTU Solidarity Post will take a closer look in it.

The sweets that the Chinese Communist Party and Pro-Establishment Camp are selling us, are nothing more than poisons which are not mentioned in the Article 45 of the Basic Law: Institution Nomination, Block Vote, Majority Nomination, Candidates must be Patriotic.

Let us take a look at the consequences after taking these poisons. read more

 

About Standard Working Hours: Something you need to know

The public will continue to discuss and argue about standard working hours (SWH) even though public consultation conducted by The Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC) has been completed. During the consultation period, business sectors mobilized hundreds of people to participate to oppose legislation. If we, workers, do not organize to fight for the SWH, it is afraid that the government will abort the legislation.

 

There are many discourses trying to discredit the SWH, for instance, people say the SWH will cause high inflation, labour shortage, etc. In view of this, we would like to refute these misunderstandings in this article.

 

Q: Why we need the SWH? Isn’t it better to have flexibility?  read more

Updates of HKCTU

Wish all domestic workers in the world a reasonable protection

 

On the International Domestic Workers, the Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions organized an activity to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of C189. During this sunny day, they played dramas and dances on a pedestrian street of Mong Kok to attract the public paying attention to the daily lives of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.

A new term of executive committee of HKCTU was born

 

The 24th term of Annual Members General Meeting (AGM) was held on July 13rd 2014. The main activity of this meeting is the election of a 2014-2016 executive committee of HKCTU. Apart from the women constituency and the federation constituency, other 18 positions of the committee were selected out of 20 nominations from affiliates. There was an electricity short circuit

at the beginning of the meeting but the overall programme went well. The happiest moment was awarding giving such as the most attractive team in May Day Rally and the well achievable awards for 3-year plans. Congratulations to The Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions which got most of the awards.

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) 3rd  World Congress

More than 1,500 trade union representatives from 161 countries came to Berlin during May 18 to May 23 to attend the 3rd World Congress of ITUC. The ITUC congress had an election on general secretary and executive committee. HKCTU sent 5 representatives to the congress taking every opportunity to express the concerns of labour rights issues in Hong Kong and mainland China. At the end of the congress, the amendments from HKCTU concerning the right to freedom of association and right to strike of Chinese workers were accepted to be included in the Congress Statement.

 

 

A victory of justice! Wu guijun is released.

Wu guijun, whom you should know about. Do you remember a strike of one HK owned household products factory in Shenzhen from March to May last year? Wu was arrested due to his participation in the strike. After more than a year of non-legitimate detention for more than a year without a legitimate reason and four trial hearings, it was found that no evidence can prove brother Wu guilty. Finally, the procuratorate dropped the charges against Mr. Wu on June 9th detaining for 1 year and 7 days due to no reason. I demand an explanation from the authority concerned and I am discussing with my lawyer for possibilities of any legal actions” said by Wu guijun.

 
 

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About Standard Working Hours: Something you need to know

05

Sep 2014

The public will continue to discuss and argue about standard working hours (SWH) even though public consultation conducted by The Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC) has been completed. During the consultation period, business sectors mobilized hundreds of people to participate to oppose legislation. If we, workers, do not organize to fight for the SWH, it is afraid that the government will abort the legislation.

 

There are many discourses trying to discredit the SWH, for instance, people say the SWH will cause high inflation, labour shortage, etc. In view of this, we would like to refute these misunderstandings in this article.

 

Q: Why we need the SWH? Isn’t it better to have flexibility?

A: Long working hours is definitely bad to workers’ health and family. According to a British medical research, working over 11 hours per day may raise the risk of cardiovascular disease by 67%. Also, working long hours means lacking rest time. It will cause illness and industrial accidents, and even “Karoshi”. A survey which was conducted by CUHK shows that half of the respondents agreed long working hours affecting their family life adversely. They cannot do their housework and accompany with their family members. The ILO stresses that productivity will decrease if people work more than 50 hours per week.

 

Q: Isn’t it fair that if you work more you get more salary?

A: You work more does not mean you get more wages. You may be requested to work overtime without payment if there is no the SWH regulation. According to the government statistic, Hong Kong has more than 340,000 workers whose overtime works are uncompensated. In average, they have 8 hours “free” overtime hours per week. In other words, employers can enjoy a “buy six and get one free” labour. If there is law, every overtime hour should be compensated.

 

Q: What is the HKCTU’s proposal on the SWH?

A: the HKCTU suggests a 44 hours week (if it is a five and half day work, 8 hours per day. If it is a five day work, daily working hours is roughly 9). If employees are requested to work more than 44 hours per week, 150% overtime remuneration must be paid. For example, one receives $50 per hour; his overtime payment is $75 per hour. Meanwhile, the HKCTU proposes a maximum working hours as 60 per week. All employees should not work more that this threshold except workers in some special industries.

 

Q: Why do not we set the SWH as 8 hours per day?

A: Different industries have different working time pattern. The proposal maintains certain extent of flexibility and minimizes impacts on business operation. For examples, employees can work 9 hours per day and work only 5 days per week.

 

Q: Will the SWH cause negative impacts on businesses? Many companies will close down and workers will lose their jobs?

A: Business sector tends to exaggerate negative impacts of all labour protections. Let us look back the minimum wage legislation. Before the legislation, business sector said it would create more unemployment and cause business bankrupt. But all these predictions have never come true. ILO specialist pointed that reducing working hours raise productivity and lower cost. Thus, the SWH will not affect business environment. On the other hand, the SWH ensures that employers should hire enough manpower. It will benefit employment.

 

Q: Business sector says Hong Kong has labour shortage problem. Will the problem deteriorate after the implementation of the SWH?

A: Hong Kong’s labour participation rate is around 60%, which is lower than other advanced economies’ rates as 70%. Hong Kong’s female labour participation rate (FLPR) is even lower, only around 50%. In other countries, more than 60 or 70% of women work. Working long hours and lack of child and elderly care services are the reasons of low FLPR. Shorten working hours can encourage more women to work. If Hong Kong’s FLPR can rise to advanced economies’ level, meaning 380,000 more people can join the labour market.

 

Q: I am now working 12 hours per day as a security guard. If there is the SWH, employer will cut my working hours to 8. Then my wages will be cut by one third too?

A: Income is the major factor of people choosing a job. A normal salary of a security guard is around $10,000 per month. If his/her salary is reduced by one third to around $6,000 per month, worker and his/her family members can barely survive. They will choose other jobs with higher salary. In this case, employer must raise wage of security guard to attract people to apply. According to the government statistic, the hourly rates of 12 and 8-hour security guards are $37.5 and $41.1 (2014) respectively. The hourly rate of 8-hour security guard is higher. Meanwhile, we should not forget many employees have no compensation on overtime work.

 

Q: the SWH will raise the labour cost, and then cause inflation?
A: According to the statistic, inflation is mainly caused by rent uplifted. It has contributed around 50% to the overall inflation rate. Another section is food price which contributed around 30%. Although the SWH may raise the wages, at the same time productivity will increase. Thus the total cost will not increase sharply. In 2011, share of wages in total operating cost was only around 10%. If the wage increases 10%, the total cost only increase 1%. For the estate management fee, wages of security guards and cleaners only share 30 to 50% of total fee. Therefore, if their wages increase 10%, the management fee will raise 3 to 5%.

 

Q: How to calculate working times as many jobs have flexible working hours?

A: Actually the Minimum Wage Ordnance (Cap. 608) has already defined working time. In brief, working time means any time when the employee, according to the contract or with the agreement or at the direction of the employer, work or travel in connection with his employment. Someone who has flexible working time can also be counted. In other countries, there are also many ways to tackle this issue. Some countries allow the employee and the employer to discuss the agreeable working time, or the law defines normal working times for particular jobs.

 

Q: the SWH is very difficult to implement. Is it impossible that if a cook leave his work sharply after working 8 hours?

A: This will not be the truth. As we mentioned before, the SWH may not be sharply 8 hours per day. In many countries the SWH is in a weekly basis. It provides some sort of flexibility. You can work less today if you worked longer yesterday. Also, the reference period of calculating hours worked may vary in different industries. In Japan, some industry sections have monthly or even yearly reference periods. In such a long reference period, the average weekly hour limit is 40 hours.

 

Q: Working long hours is a culture. Can it be solved by the SWH?

A: Many Asian countries which have similar culture with us have reduced their the SWHs recently. In 1997, Japan cut the weekly the SWH from 48 to 40. Korea has dropped their SWH from 44 to 40, starting from 2004 to 2011 by phases. Taiwan also reduced the SWH from 48 weekly to 84 bi-weekly. These amendments have successfully forced down their national average hours worked. From 1990 to 2011, Korean average hours worked sharply cut from 2,700 to 2,200. Taiwanese went down from 2,400 to 2,200 at the same period. Japanese work 300 hours less from 2,000 to 1,700 hours per year. They prove the SWH is work.

 

Q: Every industry section has its uniqueness, isn’t it ridiculous to set one the SWH standard for all industries?

A: Working time regulations in different countries have certain flexibility and special arrangements for particular industries. For instance, EU has another set of regulations for land transport workers. Because working long hours not only harm transport workers’ health, it also threats the safety of passengers and other road users. In most of the countries, one the SWH standard for all industries is not the case.

 

Q: Which countries have the SWH regulations?

A: More than 100 countries have some sort of working time regulations. Those regulations have been implemented for decades or even more than a century. The World trend is to reduce working times to less than 40 hours per week. Hong Kong, a so called international city, falls behind other countries in the aspect of working time. Around Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Philippine, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. have working time regulations. Among them, Korea and Japan used to have longer working hours than Hong Kong. But as they reduced their SWH to 40 hours, their average working hours are lower than Hong Kong’s.

Do You Want To See Fake Democracy From The Mainland Transplanted To Hong Kong?

05

Sep 2014

Taking A Bad Proposal First Is Like Drinking Poison

Authors: Chan Chiu Wai, Mung Siu Tat, and Ng Chi Kin

For months, the propaganda machine of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, Government High Officials, the Pro-Establishment Camp, and Lackeys of the Mainland are using their carrots and sticks as an attempt to persuade the Hong Kong people to “Take it First” and accept a fake Democracy for the 2017 Chief Executive Election.

So, what kind of proposal they want us to “take”?  And are these proposals “acceptable”?  This issue of the HKCTU Solidarity Post will take a closer look in it.

The sweets that the Chinese Communist Party and Pro-Establishment Camp are selling us, are nothing more than poisons which are not mentioned in the Article 45 of the Basic Law: Institution Nomination, Block Vote, Majority Nomination, Candidates must be Patriotic.

Let us take a look at the consequences after taking these poisons:

 

Content

Comment

Screening Effect

Arsenic:

Patriotic

There is no stipulation of patriotism in the law nor any clear clarification of such from the Pro-Establishment Camp. They only claimed that patriotism is “self-evident’.

The Chinese Communist Party and the Pro-Establishment never dare to define whether those officials and dignitaries who send their family and assets abroad are patriotic or not?  Nor have they ever explained whether patriotism is equivalent to support the one party dictatorship?

Despite “Triads can be patriotic”, the Pan-Democratic camp is identified as “Anti-Chinese”.  By means of this “self evident” screening, it is foreseeable that all Pan-Democrats will be screened out.  Leaving those patriots including Triads members! (Photo: Lee Cheuk, Audrey Au, and Alan Leung are screened out)

Opium:

Nomination Mechanism

Individuals in the Nomination Committee do not have the right to nominate candidates.  Candidates require the brace of the Committee as an institution.

Both Elsie Leung and Raymond Tam admit that institutional nomination is not stipulated in the “Basic Law”

Traditionally, the Pan-Democratic camp occupies less than 25% of seats in the Election Committee.  Take the 2012 CE Election as an example, Albert Ho was nominated by 188 members (15.7%) of the Committee

Other popular figures who are not acceptable will be screened out by the Central Government; Chow Yun Fat, Anthony Wong, Joseph Sung, Wong Yan Lung, and Ricky Wong.  (Photo: the above will be screened out, leaving Leung Chun Ying, Fanny Law, Peter Woo, Ng Leung Sing, James Tien, and Wang Jin)

Antrax:

Block vote

Block Vote must comply to the candidates limit.  Meaning that members of the Nomination Committee can poll before the universal suffrage, in electing the real candidate can be no more that the limit allowed from a number of “Prospect Candidates”.

The filtering and screening of candidates by a small group of people is extraordinary in many democratic countries.

 

Not only the concepts of block vote and screening were not mentioned in the “Basic Law”, it also sets a higher nomination benchmark than preceding CE elections

Arsenic Trioxide:

Majority Nomination

Meaning only candidates who attain majority votes from the Nomination Committee are eligible to become a real candidate for the CE election

 

What is left to be chosen from after screening?

First they screen out the Pan-Democrats; then they screen out those who are popular but are not acceptable to the CCP.  This is not that we can think of as universal suffrage.  Do you think the citizens are still eager to vote?  Isn’t this a waste of public spending?

Can you accept Mainland Style Universal Suffrage?

It is not a coincident that the Central Government published her white paper on “One Country, Two System in Hong Kong” during this critical moment in fighting for universal suffrage.  In the Paper, One Country, Two System” is interpreted as “complete governance”, it is obvious that the Central Government is paving the way to replicate her Mainland Style Democracy in Hong Kong.  From the colonial era to the SAR, Hong Kong people have been fighting for democracy for years, are you really willing to accept this fake version of democracy?

No To Mainland Style Democracy Workers’ Support is Obligatory

Other Than Civil Disobedience, There Are Other Supportive Roles You Can Be Involved

When all forms of expressions and negotiations become futile, civil disobedience is the only feasible means to fight for democracy and confront totalitarianism.  Thus, the HKCTU encourages all workers to rise up and participate in Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP).

In order to inspire broader social support and mobilization, the civil disobedience advocated by the OCLP hopes that a lot of people will be willing to take the risk of illegal actions and prosecution to accentuate the injustice inflicted by the dictatorial regime.  But in addition to the legal risks of civil disobedience actions, the movement also requires a large amount of supportive actions that do not involve illegal actions.

http://www.hkctu.org.hk/web/files1/upload/images/file1409923022915.bmp

To fight for democracy and the improvement of livelihood, it is a worker’s obligation to be resolutely determined.  Thus, the HKCTU would like to call on all workers to join the “Workers for True Democracy” Support Group by means of the following:

A)     Please contact Mr. Chan Chiu Wai at 2770 8668; or

B)     Come to our office in person.

Working men and women, this is a critical moment, rise up and unite to fight for the future of Hong Kong and for our next generation.

E-newsletter No.5 - May Day Special: Their May Day Wishes

09

May 2014

We fight until we win

—Chan Hing Lung

President of Swire Beverages (Hong Kong) Employees General Union

Hung Lung has been joining the union for 9 years. “I did not know what a union is when I saw the union member collect union fees and recruit members in the office but I just joined with them”, he said. He has been gaining a lot of experiences during his participation in the union, that he initiated a signature petition against unreasonable night shift and then he run for union committee member election after one year later. When he became the committee member of the union, he constantly faced intensive pressure from the management. “ I was transferred to a sales department when my direct supervisor always increased my sales targets that I could never meet the requirement. Then the manager took it as an excuse to fire me and one other colleague in the department,” Lung recalled. In order to support Lung from being victimized by the company, the union warned that they would go on strike if they company dismiss lung. As a result, the company did not dare to suck Hing Lung but to transfer him to the delivery team so his income has been reduced since then and his position in the company was actually demoted. At first, his annual salary adjustment was just 1.4% to 1.8%. He once felt very frustrated and nearly gave up the union but he was encouraged by the union organizer at that time that the union could not lose even one member. Hing Lung then vowed to fight persistently.

 

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Their May Day WIshes

 

FDW Voice on May Day

 

May Day Wishes of South-Asian Construction Workers in Hong Kong

 

May Day wishes of Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union

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Holding Truth in Heart. Turning Pens to Swords

Media Unions In Defence of Press Freedom

With their lens and pens, the media relay to their readers all major stories in the society. But recently, the Hong Kong media got their turn in the limelight with the surfacing of a series of events that challenged the industry itself: the pulling of advertisement from AM730 by the corporations of Chinese capital, HKEJ’s alleged self-censorship on the writings of its columnists, the abrupt sacking of Lee Wai-ling by the Commercial Radio, and the assault against Kevin Lau of Mingpao, for instances. Many are worried as the “invisible hand” is looming large over press freedom in Hong Kong.

A trade union is usually set up by workers to protect their labour rights, to be on an equal footing with their employers. In this issue of the Solidarity Post, we interview Wong Chun-ho, member of the preparatory committee for the Mingpao Staff Association; as well as Choi Yuen-kwai, deputy chairperson of the Next Media Trade Union. Both are veteran media workers who have witnessed many social struggles in their various scales. As unionists, they have also taken part in labour campaigns in field of the media. When media workers form a trade union, it is not just a matter of protecting labour rights, but also that of defending press freedom and the professional ethics.

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