英文

Editorial:The demise of the HKCTU

【明報專訊】THE Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), a labour group that is steeped in history, has decided to dissolve on the heels of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU), marking the end of its 31-year labour campaign. Its dissolution has not been due to its fight for labour rights, but its role in political activities.

The HKCTU was founded in 1990 by Lau Chin-shek, Szeto Wah and their associates. Dedicated to independent labour campaigns, it had over 80 affiliated associations at its height and covered many professions such as transportation, construction, retail and cleaning. The HKCTU was involved in Hong Kong's many large-scale labour movements such as the protests originating from layoffs by the Hong Kong Telephone Company in the 1990s through to the fight for severance pay for cleaners working for the contractors of housing estates three years ago. The HKCTU also has a professional training centre that co-organises hundreds of courses with the Employees Retraining Board (ERB), a statutory organisation, to support the cause of labour education and retraining. The rough estimate is that these courses are attended by over 10,000 people every year. The HKCTU is first and foremost a labour group. But it cannot be denied that it is highly political. It was founded on four principles. The first is to shore up the power of trade unions and fight for labour rights. The second is to protect fundamental human rights and promote full democracy. The dissolution of the HKCTU, just like that of the HKPTU last month, involves mainly political factors.

The immediate impact of the dissolution of the HKCTU is that many training courses are about to end prematurely. Those courses co-organised with ERB will have to be rearranged. The government should take the lead in handling the matter to minimise the impact. But then again, many courses offered by the HKCTU are also offered by other organisations. As for the few courses offered exclusively by the HKCTU, they will be provided by other organisations sooner or later as long as there is demand in the market. These are issues that are relatively easy to handle. In comparison, some of the HKCTU's affiliated associations that are in weaker positions, i.e., those without resources or even a permanent address, will face a much bigger impact after losing the support of the HKCTU suddenly.

Of course, there is more than one trade union in Hong Kong, and the demise of the HKCTU does not mean that the labour sector will no longer be able to bargain with employers. However, it must be admitted that apart from being at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, there is also a major difference between the HKCTU's and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions' (HKFTU) concepts of promoting the labour movement. Although both emphasise that wage earners have the right to walk out, the HKFTU believes that strikes should be the last resort, while the HKCTU believes that strikes are not the last resort. The HKCTU played a leading role in steel fixers' strike in 2007 and the labour campaign at Kwai Chung Container Terminal in 2013. Without the HKCTU, a critical voice will indeed go missing to a certain extent, as will a force for the obdurate fight for labour rights.

The central government demands that those who govern Hong Kong be connected to the grassroots. The SAR government has a responsibility to strengthen the protection of labour rights. This is not only about remedying Hong Kong-style capitalism's exploitation of labour, but also about social stability and the stability of one country, two systems. The authorities should listen more to the opinions of the workers, at the same time requiring the business sector to take more social responsibility. The business sector must not think that the demise of a hard-line labour organisation means it can take the opportunity to exploit workers.

明報社評 2021.10.05:職工盟解散影響工運 政府顧基層須助勞工

繼教協之後,另一個歷史悠久的勞工界組織「職工盟」,日前亦決議解散,31年工運之路走到盡頭,主因不在爭取工人權益,而是政治活動中的角色。

香港職工會聯盟1990年由劉千石、司徒華等人創立,積極推動獨立工會運動,全盛時期有超過80個屬會,涵蓋很多行業,諸如運輸、建築、零售、清潔等,由1990年代初的香港電話工潮,到3年前的屋邨外判清潔工追討遣散費,本地多場大型工運工潮,皆可見到職工盟身影。另外,職工盟亦有成立專業培訓中心,每年與政府法定機構僱員再培訓局,合辦數以百計課程,支持勞工教育及再培訓工作,粗略估計每年有過萬人報讀。職工盟的基本屬性是勞工團體,然而無可否認,它亦有很強的政治性,職工盟成立宗旨有四,第一點是壯大工會力量、爭取勞工權益,第二點就是維護基本人權、促進全面民主。就像上月決議解散的教協,職工盟解散,主要涉及政治因素。

職工盟解散,即時影響是很多培訓課程面臨「爛尾」,其他跟僱員再培訓局合辦的課程,亦要重新安排,政府應主動牽頭處理,減低影響,不過話說回來,職工盟不少課程,其他機構亦有提供,至於少數獨家課程,只要市場有需要,假以時日總有人開辦,這些都是較易處理的問題。相比之下,一些缺乏資源、連固定會址也沒有的弱勢工會屬會,突然失去職工盟的支援,所受影響將大得多。

當然,香港不止一個工會聯盟,沒有職工盟,不等於勞工界再無機會跟僱主討價還價,然而必須承認的是,職工盟與工聯會除了政治上各歸一邊,推動工運理念亦有重大分別。雖然兩者皆強調打工仔有權罷工,惟工聯會認為,罷工應該是最後手段,職工盟則認為罷工並非最後手段。2007年紮鐵工人工潮,以及2013年葵涌貨櫃碼頭工潮,職工盟都扮演了領導角色。少了職工盟,某程度確是少了一把重要聲音,以及少了一條強硬爭取勞工權益的路線。

中央要求治港者接地氣貼基層,特區政府有責任加強保障勞工權益,這既是為了糾正港式資本主義對勞工的壓榨,更關乎社會穩定及一國兩制行穩致遠。當局應多聽勞工意見,同時要求工商界多負社會責任,不要以為少了一個立場強硬的勞工組織,就可趁機剝削工人。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

prematurely:before the normal or expected time

exclusively:only

walk out:to stop working in order to go on strike

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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