5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Hong Kong SAR (China)

The ITUC affiliates in Hong Kong are the Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council (HKTUC) and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

The HKCTU is excluded from participating in the Labour Advisory Board as well as other tripartite bodies such as the Minimum Wage Commission and Standard Working Hours Committee.

In practice

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Sacked for calling a strike31-03-2015
Negotiating in bad faith08-06-2016

Even when employers do negotiate, they do not necessarily sign the agreement that emerges from that. The Bar Bending Contractors Association refused to sign any written agreements with the Bar Bending Industry Workers Solidarity Union for a wage increase. Even if they had signed, collective agreements are not binding.

Music company by-passed union31-12-2015

When the newly formed union at Tom Lee Music requested a meeting with management in December 2015, the company refused to talk to it, and said it would communicate with the workers directly. As there is no legal obligation on employers to negotiate with unions, by-passing unions and going straight to the workers is a common occurrence, according to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

Bus companies refuse information to union08-06-2016

The New World First Bus Company and Citybus Limited both refused to give their workers’ unions information about their financial situation during the annual pay negotiations.

Collective bargaining rights ignored 31-05-2015

In May 2015 the Cathay Pacific airline reduced its employees’ hourly rate of pay and removed legal assistance protection, without consulting the unions. Legally the company is under no obligation to do so, as the law does not recognise the right to collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. As a result less than 1 per cent of employees in Hong Kong are protected by collective agreements and most employers simply ignore unions, do not consult them, and do not provide information when requested. The flight attendants’ union, which represents over 70 per cent of employees, threatened to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. Management backed down.

Unionists dismissed31-12-2015

Two trade unionists, Mr. Ho King Keung and Li Siu Man, were dismissed in December 2015 because they led a workers’ petition to fight for pay increases. They were also protesting against their employer’s attempts to circumvent labour legislation and the protection it provides for workers.

Union leader arrested31-12-2015

In December 2015, the organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Mr. Yu Chi Hang, who had led a demonstration to demand improvements in workers’ rights, was arrested by the police.

Arrests:19-06-2015

The names of HKCTU officials Lee Cheuk-yan (General Secretary) and Mung Siu-tat (Executive Director) were included on a list of persons who are to be summoned to police stations where they will be arrested. Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang announced that the police would arrest the “key organisers” of the Umbrella Movement within three months. Several other members of the HKCTU were arrested during the
clearance of the peaceful assembly in the Admiralty area of Hong Kong.

Police repression:19-06-2015

Police interfered violently in protests demanding free elections of the Hong Kong Chief Executive. Workers, students and ordinary citizens assembled outside government buildings from 26 September 2014 onwards. On 28 September, the Hong Kong government deployed anti-riot police and fired tear gas at tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators. Even though, many people were injured protests continued blocking main roads in Hong Kong.

Since there is no law protecting the right to...06-08-2014

Since there is no law protecting the right to collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
, unions are often not recognised for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
purposes. Employers bypass unions and bargain directly with individual employees and refuse to provide financial information about the company when they do engage in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. For example, the request of union representatives at companies such as New World Bus Corporation and Coca Cola for financial reports has been declined every year. Companies argue that this information is confidential and withhold information that is vital for the bargaining process. Union representatives at the beverage company Vitasoy have been asking management for a meeting for years now without any response.

Workers regularly face discrimination for...06-08-2014

Workers regularly face discrimination for union membership. For example, an active union member in the Coach Drivers Union has been dismissed by his employer. Two driving instructors of the Hong Kong School of Motoring were dismissed in January 2013 when they were about to form a union. They protested outside the company and were eventually reinstated.

On 28 March 2013, over 500 dock workers at...01-04-2013
The Labour Department, which is responsible...06-08-2014

The Labour Department, which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting the violation of trade union rights, has only prosecuted four cases from 1997 to 2014. It argues that there has never been sufficient evidence to prosecute in other cases.

Refusal to bargain in good faith16-08-2013

The Vitasoy company has refused to bargain with the Vitasoy Employees Union with regard to wage setting mechanisms. The company does not want to participate in regular negotiations with the union.

Exclusion of workers16-08-2013

A. S. Watson & Company Limited Hong Kong is increasingly turning employees into self-employed contractors to avoid legal obligations with regard to the payment of benefits. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions stated that this has a serious impact on representativeness for bargaining purposes.

Refusal to recognise unions for bargaining16-08-2013

The Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD), which represents 1,500 dock workers in the Hong Kong Container Terminal, is not recognised by the owner of the terminals and the contractors for bargaining purposes.

Exemption of public servants from collective bargaining31-12-2011

The ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has repeatedly urged the government not to exclude workers in this sector as a whole from collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government insists that there is no need for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
in the public sector, on the grounds that well-established and effective machinery for consultation concerning the conditions and terms of employment of civil servants is in place. However, civil service reforms since 2002, involving transfers, reductions in wages and benefits, retrenchment and contracting-out contracting-out The practice whereby an employer transfers an aspect of its business operation to an external provider. Also called outsourcing. Not to be confused with subcontracting (the further delegation of work by the external provider). to the private sector have demonstrated very clearly that the government has been free to act unilaterally without consulting the affected civil servants. Labour relations in the public sector have thus been very strained.

Weak protection against anti-union discrimination31-12-2011

Cases of dismissal or harassment for trade union activity are reported each year. However, due to the difficulties establishing anti-discrimination, litigation against employers for this offence remains a weak tool for victimised workers. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has been critical of the lack of effective protection against anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

in Hong Kong, evidenced by the low number of complaints filed by the Labour Department and the even lower number of successful cases against employers - not more than two since 1997.

Consultation rather than bargaining30-11-2010

The Hong Kong SAR government has lauded tripartite committees at the industry level as useful tools for promoting bipartite voluntary negotiation. The Labour Department has set up nine tripartite committees covering catering, construction, property management, retail, hotel and tourism, logistics, printing and theatre as well as the cement and concrete industry. These committees are consultative only in nature, loose in organisation, and do not assume any legally binding responsibility to establish or promote collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
mechanisms at corporate or industrial level.

The “collective agreements” that the government claims were signed in the food processing and security services industry were not known by workers in the two sectors. Nor are the industrial affiliates of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)in these sectors aware of the existence of these agreements. As the government continues to resist collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
legislation, there is no procedure and scope to define negotiations. The result is that talks in these tripartite and industrial committees tend to be on issues un-related to labour standards, with no accountability to workers in the industries.

No recognition of collective bargaining rights30-11-2010

There is no institutional framework for the recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. of unions and collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. Employers in general continue to refuse to recognise unions as well as refusing to implement agreements that have been negotiated. Although roughly 23% of the workforce is unionised, unions are unable to force management to engage in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. Less than 1% of workers are covered by collective agreements, and those that exist are not legally binding. Without legal protection to guarantee these rights, workers are subject to arbitrary and unilateral actions by employers and, as a consequence, are denied job and income security.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) is consistently excluded from the Labour Advisory Board (LAB), the tripartite consultative body established by the government, which does however include pro-government union federations. This exclusion means it is denied the right to participate in tripartite negotiations on labour laws and policy and is excluded from bodies such as the Committee on the Implementation of International Standards, which reports to the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
. Employers often attempt to take advantage of the disparity and political divisions among staff unions including the divide between the pro-democracy HKCTU and the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU).

Escalating use of force by police30-11-2010

The use of force by the Hong Kong Police has escalated over the last two years during assemblies and demonstrations, particularly protests and demonstrations staged outside the Government Office and the Liaison Office of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Hong Kong. The use of physical force, arrests and elective prosecutions show a heightened level of intolerance towards individuals and organisations exercising the rights of expression, association and assembly.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association protested against the suppression of press freedom and freedom of expression by the Hong Kong authorities during the visit of te Vice Premier of the PRC, Li Keqiang, to Hong Kong on 20 August 2011. Earlier in 2011, the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association protested after the police used disproportionate force against members of the news media who were reporting on the public rally against the government on 1 July 2011, the 14th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China.

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