New twist in labour row

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 1996, 12:00am

THE Executive Council is poised to endorse the new foreign labour scheme today despite threats by the Liberal Party to support the private member's bill championed by the Democratic Party.

On the eve of the Exco meeting, leading Liberals Henry Tang Ying-yen and James Tien Pei-chun said they were 'contemplating support' for the bill sponsored by the Michael Ho Mun-kar if crucial details of the deal were not clarified.

Another Democratic Party legislator Tsang Kin-shing last night staged a sit-in outside the central Government Offices, calling for the scheme to be scrapped.

A government official said the position of the Liberals 'remains to be seen'.

Their siding with the Democrats 'doesn't seem to be consistent with the views of the constituencies they represent', he said.

The official said the business sector did not want the whole scheme scrapped, which would be the result if Mr Ho's bill was passed.

He said they were adamant the revised scheme struck the right balance between the various parties.

'We hope we can finalise the matter and do not have to face Michael Ho's bill.' The official said they would lobby hard for the package after it was endorsed by Exco this morning.

Officials and union representatives have agreed to allow up to 2,000 foreign workers but postpone the scheme until next month and ban foreign labour in 26 categories of jobs.

The deal was endorsed after a union vote, but business leaders said it was a collaboration between workers and the Government.

Mr Tang said the Government should clarify whether 2,000 was the cutoff figure.

'The Government has told us the 2,000 is not a quota limit. The review conducted afterward is only to reassess the procedure of implementation,' he said.

'Application for importation will still be granted according to actual need.' He further noted that: 'During a discussion [with the Government] last weekend, I have an understanding that the Government does not intend to set a quota limit.' Mr Tang said the party would consider giving support to Mr Ho's bill.

Mr Tien, his party colleague, said the consideration of giving the Democrats support was 'an expression of our profound distrust in, and disappointment with, the administration over its flip-flopping about imported labour'.