Union groupings square off for numbers match

Local | Cindy Wan 27 Dec 2019

At least 400 new unions are needed to counter the influence of pro-establishment groups, says Carol Ng Man-yee, chairwoman of the Confederation of Trade Unions.

Ng said the recent strikes have been too small scale to bite, and action would be more effective if led by unions.

Her remarks on a radio program followed The Standard reporting exclusively on Monday that more than 100 unionist groups have been taking shape since August as part of a democratic effort to take control by 2022 of the labor sector's 60 seats on the 1,200-member committee that votes for the chief executive.

Ng noted that Hong Kong has some 600 registered unions, including more than 300 groups linked to administration-supporting Federation of Trade Unions and 80 from the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions plus independent unions.

"To defeat [the FTU], we must have more unions than it has," she said, estimating that they would require at least 400 groups on the pro-democracy camp.

The confederation received at least 10 calls a day last month asking for advice on setting up a union, Ng said, while previously there was less than one a week.

With the pro-democracy push in its seventh month, she said, "there has not been a successful general strike." The conclusion, she added, was that workers were concerned strike action was not led by a union.

Ng noted too that a strike usually takes place after a negotiation process has failed, and it requires people advancing ideas for mutual support.

"It takes at least seven people to set up a founding committee for a union and for it to advance to the Labour Department's Registry of Trade Unions," Ng added. And precise procedures must be followed if a group is to be protected by law.

But FTU president Stanley Ng Chau-pei said the push was actually about making political demands rather than fighting for labor rights.

Previous calls for strikes failed because people did not support moves such as obstructing public transport to stop others from going to work, he said. "Political strikes will only drag down Hong Kong's economy and do no good for labor rights."

The intention of the opposition camp, he claimed, is to fool international media into thinking some actions are supported by a majority of people.

"Some new unions are planning strikes before they register themselves, making them no different from an illegal organization."

However, Stanley Ng said some companies and workers think the campaign to set up new unions will serve to harm the development of their sectors and so there are plans to counter action, which will have support from the FTU.



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