Labor unions have held separate rallies fearing that the ambitious housing program of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying may lead to the importation of foreign workers.
About 50 workers from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions marched in two separate groups from Admiralty Centre to the government headquarters at Tamar yesterday.
Waving banners and chanting slogans, they are worried that the job opportunities of local workers will be badly affected if employers start hiring foreign workers who are paid lower salaries.
"On the one hand, the government has set up the statutory minimum wage and, on the other, wants to import foreign laborers," FTU member Yip Wai-ming said.
"This will drive employers to hire foreign workers instead of locals. This is not the way to improve a Hongkonger's living."
A construction worker, surnamed Wong and marching with the CTU, said many workers are underemployed and questioned the need to import foreign labor. "In fact, many steel-fixing workers who could not find work in the city had to seek jobs in Macau," he said.
But taking an opposite stance, Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, supports importing labor to ease the shortage of construction workers.
He said on an RTHK talk show: "Leung has proposed to build more public housing and Home Ownership Scheme flats. All these need a large number of workers in which Hong Kong may not fit the demand.
"Insufficient workers may cause a delay in the completion of construction projects, including infrastructure projects." One way to meet the demand is to import workers, Tien added. CANDY CHAN