Poll hopefuls face union test on jobs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 1995, 12:00am

UNION officials will put the Liberal Party to the test over the labour importation scheme in the September election for the nine new functional constituencies.

With the unemployment rate at a nine-year high of three per cent, trade union leaders have vowed to question employers' representatives over the issue.

Lee Cheuk-yan, the legislator and Confederation of Trade Unions leader, said that the economic downturn could make employees more inclined to choose someone who sought to defend their interests.

'The policy will be a litmus test for different candidates,' Mr Lee said.

Because of the varied employment of most electors in the nine new groups, those who worked for their interests would have the edge.

But he added that employees would also consider the candidates' track record on protecting workers when deciding who to vote for.

Mr Lee is eyeing the seat in Group Five, Wholesale and Retail.

Henry Tang Ying-yen, a Liberal Party hopeful, admitted that the deteriorating employment situation would hurt his campaign.

With his eye on the Import and Export constituency, Mr Tang said it was natural that employees would look to unions when facing economic hardship.

'I think the latest jobless figure will further weaken our chances to win in the election,' said Mr Tang. 'Worse still, there is no immediate solution to the problem.' The only thing he could do was to explain to workers why the labour importation policy had little to do with rising unemployment.

The Liberal Party has always supported a restrictive and limited importation scheme to ease the shortage of labour in certain sectors, he added.

'We have never demanded an influx of cheap foreign labour to replace local workers.' With only one week left in the voter registration campaign, the Boundary and Election Commission said 801,819 voters have enrolled to vote in the nine new functional constituencies, about 32.6 per cent of the 2.46 million eligible voters.