|Role of Trade
Unions and how the recession is affecting Hong Kong
Ms Chan Yuen-han, Legislative Councillor for the Federation of Trade Unions, was
the Foundation's guest speaker on 26 October 1998. This is a summary of her remarks.
Role of the union
The role of the union is to protect the rights of the workers in their employment and
livelihood. When workers' rights are being enfringed, the union has to stand on the side
of the workers, to fight for their rights, and reasonable treatment from the employer. In
recent cases of lay-offs and salary reduction, the participation of the union was very
The Union's five functions
- Protection of workers' rights - whether it is economic, employees' professional dignity
and social justice, the union should play the role of workers' protector.
- Organizer - The union unites and organizes workers to form a powerful organization.
- Professionalism - The union possesses thorough professional knowledge and experience in
labour legislation and the employment market.
- Mediator - In management and labour negotiation, the union can play the role of mediator
to soften and deflect the friction between the two sides and help to reach a point of
balance taking into consideration the interests of both sides.
- Policy catalyst. The union can persuade the government to consider labour interests when
The recession's effect on the workers
The recession caused many enterprises to shut down, cut staff and reduce salaries. The
workers became the greatest victim of the recession.
Economy - unemployment reduces workers' income and their standard of living continues
Family - When the pillar of the family collapes, family life is seriously affected.
Self esteem drops - The unemployed faces the problems of depression, loss of self
esteem and dignity, and sometimes face serious emotional problems, even suicide.
Effects on society
- When workers' income falls, consumption also falls and prolongs economic recovery.
- Unemployment is more predominant among the young. This causes social instability.
- The numbers of unemployed seeking CSSA assistance increases. This aggravates society's
In a recession, all sectors of the society should face the difficulties together, and
should not place all the burden on the workers.
Required attitudes from all sides
- Employers - When in difficulties, the employers should discuss the problem with workers
cordially to find a satisfactory solution. The employers should not suppress the workers
and exploit the workers in difficult times.
- Government - The Government should have the ability to handle crisis and actively
implement public policies to solve the crisis. The reserves should be used to stimulate
the economy, to create employment, to ease people's difficulties, and to help early
- Union - The unions should tell the society workers' difficult conditions, and help the
Government to formulate appropriate policies to ensure just and reasonable treatment of
- Workers - Workers should help themselves by facing difficult times positively until the
time of recovery.
The above summary does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation.
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