Hong Kong (RAE - China) - Nepalese workers win concessions after lock-out of strikers (2011)

After unfulfilled promises to improve working conditions and wages, some 70 ethnic Nepalese construction workers went on a two-day strike on 11 -12 November. During negotiations management refused to meet any of the workers’ demands. The workers at the Maeda-CREC-SELI Joint Venture were paid extremely low daily rates with none of the usual additional allowances which other workers received. They also were not given lunch or tea breaks. In addition, only one container was provided for workers to change and rest, contrary to Hong Kong hygiene standards.

Frustrated, the workers contacted the Nepalese Construction Workers Union and the Construction Site General Workers Union for assistance. Union officials went to the work-site, and as a result, on 13 November management locked the doors refusing entry to all of the Nepalese workers. The workers remained outside, but in response the management called the police and the Labour Department. On 15 November the workers went to work but were again refused entry. They then held a demonstration coordinated by the unions, after which Department of Labour officers came to arbitrate between the management and the workers. By 5:00 p.m. an agreement was reached with the company agreeing to provide one hour over-time pay for every eight hours of work, 20 minute breaks for all workers, back-wages for the two days the workers went on strike, and the reinstatement of all workers who chose to return following the agreement. Despite the wage not being increased, this was the first major victory for the Nepalese Construction union since its inception in 2007. The long established Nepalese community in Hong Kong often faces discrimination and low wages.

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