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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Brutal suppression of pro-democracy rallies01-01-2020

The trade unions played an active role in the mass protests against Hong Kong’s Mutual Legal Assistance against Law on Offenders and Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill 2019, known as the extradition bill. The movement began in June 2019 as a series of demonstrations and rallies to oppose the bill, which would allow the Chinese courts and authorities to extradite anybody from or in Hong Kong, including political critics and opponents, to be tried according to mainland jurisdiction. The rallies attended by people in the millions on 9 and 16 June demanded the permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill, the unconditional release of arrested protestors, the withdrawal by the government of their characterisation of the 12 June mass protests as a “riot”, an independent investigation into police violence and abuse of power, and full universal suffrage.

There was brutal crackdown of the anti-extradition protests as they were broadened to an ongoing movement for democratic reforms and protection of fundamental civil rights and freedoms against escalating police violence after the bill was withdrawn on 4 September. At least 6,943 protesters have been arrested for taking part in unlawful assemblies and rioting. Eighty per cent of these cases are still under investigation to intimidate the arrestees from joining the protests. Unproportionate violence has been used by the police against the protesters including 19 live rounds, 15,972 rounds of tear gas and tens of thousands of rubber bullets, sponge bullets and bean bag rounds in blatant violation of the Police Ordinance and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (AIHK annual report). Protesters were reportedly tortured, sexually abused and their access to lawyers was obstructed during detention. Accountability of the police officers and remedies to redress the curb on fundamental freedoms do not exist under the government-appointed Complaint Against Police Office.

Between June and December 2019, the Hong Kong police used the Public Order Ordinance to object to 47 out of 537 applications for public procession or meetings, in violation of the principle of freedom of peaceful assembly under ICCPR. On 23 August, the Hong Kong Airport Authority (HKAA) obtained an injunction injunction A court order prohibiting or preventing a certain course of action, such as calling or continuing with a strike. order to ban protests at the airport indefinitely. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) was barred, due to the objection by HKAA and the company, from staging a rally outside Cathay Pacific’s headquarter office at the airport on 26 August to protest the dismissals of employees associated with the anti-extradition protests. The union had to stage the protest far away from the workplace in Central district on 28 August.

HKCTU actively supported the call for general strikes on 5 August 2019 attended by 3,500 workers and on 3 September to demand the full withdrawal of the extradition bill. Many more took part in the strikes and spontaneous rallies by taking leave, since the Trade Union Ordinance and Employment Ordinance authorises only economic strikes that take place outside the working hours or within the working hours with the consent of the employers. Mandatory reinstatement of unlawfully dismissed workers is effectively compromised by a substitute cash penalty capped at US$9,300 under the Employment (Amendment) (No.2) Ordinance passed in 2018.

Union leader dismissed for supporting the pro-democracy movement20-11-2019

On 21 August, the Cathay Dragon airline dismissed the chairperson of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, Ms Rebecca Sy. No official reason was given for her dismissal, but it came immediately after she was asked to confirm that a screen shot of a social media post expressing support for the pro-democracy movement was hers.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), to which the Flight Attendants Association is affiliated, believed the airline industry unions were a target for reprisals because they had been the most active in the pro-democracy 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
on 5 August. Rebecca Sy herself was a very active union member and was credited with pushing through changes that ended Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon’s “skirts only” rule for women, giving female flight attendants the option of wearing trousers. The airline declined to give a reason for Ms Sy’s dismissal, but claimed it was not related to her union activities.

After the 5 August general 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
, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) put pressure on Cathay Pacific over its staff’s involvement in the pro-democracy movement and issued a broadly scoped directive to Cathay Pacific to prohibit the staff of Cathay Pacific taking part in “unlawful assemblies” and “radical actions” in the anti-extradition bill protests from flying over mainland Chinese air space.

The company bowed to that pressure and warned of terminations for supporting or joining the protests. The number of staff dismissed because of their support for the movement soon reached double figures and included four pilots and two ground staff.

The CAAC ban has had a ripple effect to limit the right to freedom of assembly and expression of employees in the aviation sector. By the end of November 2019, 37 employees of Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines and the Hong Kong Airport Authority had been fired for association with the protests.

Government threatens civil servants attending public assemblies02-08-2019

A group of civil servants was planning to organise a public assembly on 2 August 2019 to express their concerns on the amendment of the extradition bill. In response to it, the HKSAR government issued a statement a day before threatening “serious consequences” if the civil servants joined the assembly, which was political in nature in breach of the Civil Service Code regarding political neutrality and total loyalty of the civil servants in serving the chief executive.

Discrimination of trade union executives12-12-2018

Tom Lee Music has been refusing to negotiate a 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
agreement with the affiliate of HKCTU since the union was established in 2014 to fight against contractualisation. Since 2018, the management has ceased to open new music classes or allocate new students to the classes taught by the executives of the trade union. The union executives have raised the discriminatory arrangement, which greatly affected their income, with the management without receiving an answer.

British Airways lays off 85 workers without informing or negotiating with the union28-09-2018

In September 2018, British Airways announced closure of its local base in Hong Kong and redundancies of all the 85 local cabin crew in a month’s time without prior notice and negotiation of severance with the union.

Freedoms of assembly and expression infringed at university campuses31-08-2018

The Hong Kong Buildings Management and Security Workers General Union was unable to freely organise its activities on the premises of Lingnan University. In August the university book store was pressured and refused to lend its venue to the union, which was preparing to organise a talk to the staff and employees jointly with the student group concerning labour issues at the campus. The school authority called the student group an illegal organisation and re-scheduled the staff training to dissuade them from joining the talk.

In addition, the school authority of City University City infringed the freedom of expression of the City University Staff Association by removing posters bearing the Chinese characters for “Hong Kong independence” on the union board, also known as the democracy wall. The university requested that the union remove all material and, after no action was taken, university management used red paper to cover the wall, prompting the student union to issue its ultimatum. The fight over control of a bulletin board at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) escalated after a large piece of red paper that management used to cover pro-independence messages was reportedly torn down by a student. Meanwhile, at the University of Hong Kong, posters and banners backing the Hong Kong National Party on its democracy wall were found to have been removed.

Employers refusing to recognise trade union and to bargain collectively31-08-2018

For many years, the Hospital Authority Employees General Union, affiliated to HKCTU, has been demanding 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. and regular meetings with the management of the Hospital Authority without success. On 2 September the union staged a protest to demand a meeting with the management to resolve the 43 complaints of harassments it had received from members and staff in the past year. The management ignored the demand of the union for 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. .
Similarly, in 2018 companies such as Hong Kong Express, Hong Airlines and Vitasoy also continued to refuse recognising the affiliated unions of HKCTU for negotiations 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
.

Suspended for organising pay strike 13-04-2018

Hong Kong’s largest bus company KMB suspended four drivers for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. a 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
.
On Saturday 24 February 2018, Yip Wai-lam, leader of the newly formed Full-time KMB Driver Alliance, led a protest against the new pay restructuring exercise by using buses to block the entrance to the depot. The new pay deal had been agreed with the main drivers’ union, the Motor Transport Workers General Union’s (MTWGU) KMB branch, affiliated with the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions. It reduced drivers’ working hours and included a small pay rise. The MTWGU was one of five unions at the company.
The protest was called off when management agreed to meet Alliance representatives on Monday 26 February. It agreed to the Alliance’s main demands, including scrapping the annual performance appraisal and consulting the drivers over policies that affected them.
At first the KMB said no disciplinary measures would be taken against those involved in the 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
but on Tuesday 27 February KMB announced that Yip Wai-lam, her husband and two other drivers involved in the dispute would be dismissed.
That announcement led to an immediate display of solidarity. About 50 members of the public and a number of pro-democratic political parties went to KMB’s depot on the Tuesday evening to show their support for Yip Wai-lam. They included at least six KMB drivers and two representatives from the Staff Rights Association of KMB and the KMB Staff Union. The KMB quickly revised its decision to dismiss the four, and instead suspended them on full pay while considering what further action would be taken.
Five weeks later, on 13 April it was announced that all four were to be reinstated, but KMB warned that they would face serious punishment if they violated company rules again.

Strike leader fired06-03-2018

Kowloon Motor Bus sacked the whistle-blower Yip Wai Lam and her husband on 6 March 2018 after leading a wildcat 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
the previous week. The KMB management accused her of violating the company code and discipline.

Solidarity protest blocked by police forces21-02-2018

In February 2018 the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) organised a rally to the Korean Consulate in Hong Kong to demand the release of Han Sang-gyun, ex-president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and Lee Young-joo, ex-general secretary of KCTU. However, the policemen blocked the venue and protesters failed to go near the consulate office. The co-ordinator of the action received a warning for the violation of the Public Order Ordinance.

HKCTU denounces non-compliance with ILO Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining12-02-2018

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) continues to denounce the long-standing violations of 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
Convention No. 98, which provides for the adoption of a legislative framework for 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

and 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
, and 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
Convention No. 144, which ensures effective tripartite consultations with the most representative organisations of workers.

No collective bargaining in Hong Kong12-02-2018

There is no law in Hong Kong to mandate bargaining or consultation with the trade unions on employment relations and conditions. Consequently, less than one per cent of the employees in Hong Kong are protected by a collective agreement and employers usually refuse 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
with unions. For example, New World First Bus Company has rejected all talks on increasing the basic salary and shortening working hours, while Citybus Ltd has refused to negotiate trade union leaves, as proposed by the unions. The Hospital Authority has refused to negotiate with the trade union over the grievance procedure. British Airlines in Hong Kong has also refused to open a dialogue with unions. In some cases, trade unions have asked for formal 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. but they remained unsuccessful, as was the case for Vitasoy employees union, which still awaits 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. by the employer. Instead, the CEO of the company has arranged a regular exchange meeting with the employees quarterly.

The Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers barred from opening a bank account12-02-2018

Some unions are not able to open a bank account for their daily operation. For example, the Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong, which is composed of the foreign domestic workers, has been trying to open a bank account and has applied to nearly all banks in Hong Kong, but its applications were rejected every time on various dubious grounds. Some banks pretended that they only accepted nationals as clients, while others claimed that they did not accept associations or organisations as clients.

Union leader fired01-02-2018

In January 2018 the president of the Hong Kong Baptist University Employees’ Union was terminated – his employment contract was not renewed.

Replacement of striking workers at the Hoi Lai Estate31-12-2017

In December 2017 cleaners in Hoi Lai Estate went on 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
saying that they were denied severance payments when their company’s contract with the public housing estate ended in October. They were then re-employed by a new cleaning contractor, which declined to honour long service payments for their tenures with the old company. The total amount of the claim reached HKD 1 million. At first, the new contractor refused to negotiate with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and hired some cleaners to replace striking workers. After a ten-day 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
, the contractor finally agreed to most of the union’s demands, including the payment of HKD 1,200 in severance pay for each worker and for each year of employment, that is 80 per cent of the full amount.

Civil liberties in Hong Kong18-08-2017

In its concluding observations of 3 February 2016, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) expressed its concern at consistent reports of massive detentions of persons in the context of demonstrations and the alleged restriction to the detainees’ legal safeguards. The Committee also noted that, on 18 August 2017, a court decision was handed down against three persons in relation to the mass demonstration in 2014 for inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, or for taking part in an unlawful assembly under section 18 of the Public Order Ordinance. During the first instance, three defendants respectively received 80 hours’ community service, 120 hours’ community service and three weeks’ imprisonment with probation for one year. Upon the application of the Public Prosecutors for the review of the case, the Court of Appeal considered that the sentences of the first instance were inadequate and could not possibly reflect the gravity of the offences. It therefore sentenced the three defendants to six to eight months’ imprisonment respectively.

HKCTU still excluded from main national tripartite bodies02-04-2017

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) deplores the fact that despite being the second largest national trade union centre trade union centre A central organisation at the national, regional or district level consisting of affiliated trade unions. Often denotes a national federation or confederation. , it is still deprived of the right to nominate representatives to the Labour Advisory Board, the official tripartite consultation body, the Minimum Wage Commission and the Standard Working Hours Committee. Instead, the authorities favour pro-government unions by unfair and opaque election methods. In March 2017 Mr. Chan Hung Chi, a former high-ranking officer at the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong, was appointed deputy general secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), which raised serious doubts among independent trade unions.

Union leader dismissed by airline catering company09-03-2017

On 9 March 2017 LSG Sky Chefs fired Ng Chi-Fai, a chef and the chairperson of the Hong Kong Chefs’ Union.

Ng Chi-Fai joined the company in 2015, and in the same year established the union. Under his leadership the union called for legislation to regulate working hours, and protested against food and beverage corporations Maxims and Cafe de Coral.

Ng Chi-fai was twice reassigned in response to his activism. In April 2016 together with other chefs, he pressed for the payment of arrears for overtime work. They succeeded, but in retaliation the company moved Ng from his former workplace in Tseung Kwan-O, where he lives, to the Kwai Chung port area much further away. He was put on rubbish disposal duties, which was not part of his contracted tasks as a chef. In November 2016 he was reassigned again after participating in the march against Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and sent to work at the headquarters of the state-owned Bank of China.

Ng said the grounds given for his dismissal on 9 March were a “poor attitude”, even though he had a good work record. Four days before his dismissal, on Sunday 5 March, Ng had attended a public forum on the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive’s election and asked one of the candidates, Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, about her position on standard working hours. There is no legally specified standard working week in Hong Kong and this has long been a campaign issue for the trade unions. After the forum he was called to meet LSG Hong Kong’s General Manager Sam Yau, who told Ng he was fired.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

Sacked for calling a strike31-03-2015
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.

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 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.

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 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.

On 28 March 2013, over 500 dock workers at...01-04-2013
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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