HKCTU action update

Grosby Footwear

Some 30 members of HKCTU and several labour organizations protested on the morning of 18 July 2014 at the Asia-Pacific merchandising department of Marks & Spencer (hereafter M&S), a major British multinational retailer. The protest was triggered by a suicide the previous morning (17 July 2014), when Zhou Jianrong, 50, jumped from a height after being dismissed by Grosby Footwear (Shenzhen) Ltd., a major supplier of M&S, for her participation in a strike. It is believed that Ms Zhou's death was caused by the unjust dismissal.

An open statement was issued by HKCTU and labour organizations, condemning Grobsy's heavy-handed measures against the workers, its neglect of workers' concerns over the factory's closure and its failure to address workers' demands regarding seniority benefits and dismissal compensation. A strike had broken out on 26 May 2014 and, instead of communicating with workers, Grosby unilaterally dismissed the strikers.

The major demands listed in the open statement include:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally reinstate all dismissed workers, including the vice-chairperson and workers' representatives of the trade union;
  2. After the reinstatement of union members, Grosby should hold labour consultative meetings with its trade union, to seek common solutions for labour conflicts;
  3. To conduct an independent investigation into Zhou Jianrong's death, to seek opinions from her family and trade union regarding further support and compensation.

HKCTU and Labour NGOs in HK did a protest action

at the Asia Pacific Office of Marks and Spencer.

Protest against Six Major Chambers of Commerce

Six major chambers of commerce in Hong Kong released a statement in a newspaper in May 2014, to jointly obstruct Guangdong Province’s ongoing lawmaking effort regarding “collective negotiation” and the recognition of workers' rights to collective bargaining. On 6 June 2014, HKCTU and other labour groups which are concerned about workers' rights in China, protested at the Annual General Meeting of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (hereafter HKGCC), one of the six signatories, in Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. HKCTU criticized the Hong Kong business groups for being entirely self-centered and failing to engage in collective negotiation to resolve labour conflicts.

From statistics collected from various sources, HKCTU has identified a significant growth from 382 strikes or collective labour actions in Guangdong province 2012 to 656 cases in 2013. Between March 2013 and April 2014, 15 strikes took place in Hong Kong-owned enterprises in Guangdong Province alone, affecting approximately 100,000 workers. 90% of the strikes were caused by employers' violations of labour legislation. HKCTU points out that the refusal of six major chambers of commerce to negotiate shows their attempt to maintain their “authoritarian” role in labour relations in China. It also shows that the Hong Kong business community has an unjustifiable phobia of collective negotiation and therefore opposes it without any reason.

The representative of HKGCC initially refused to accept the letter, and left in anger.  After an hour of protest, Malcolm Ainsworth, the Assistant Director of the HKGCC eventually came out and accepted the letter. HKCTU requested to meet the six chambers of commerce and Mr Ainsworth promised to reply within a week. A week later, instead of making a sincere offer to meet, HKGCC wrote a short reply saying that the “Business community and labour organizations could voice out their respective opinions”. This indifferent attitude is disappointing, although not surprising.

HKCTU did a protect action to condemn the HK Chamber of Commerce and explain the win-win situation of having collective bargaining legislation.