Unions fight work scheme for Gurkhas

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 1996, 12:00am

Trade unions are planning new attacks on a scheme to bring in imported labour.

Ex-Gurkha servicemen who have been granted more than 10 per cent of places approved under the Supplementary Labour Scheme, are set to be in the firing line.

Both the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) remain angry that companies are employing the former soldiers for security work rather than training local workers.

Though employers have argued they need greater numbers of workers from overseas, the unions say there is no need for the scheme which was launched in February and will see 2,000 work visa applications approved before it is reviewed.

So far the Secretary for Education and Manpower has approved 239 applications covering 1,459 positions.

Elizabeth Tang, CTU chief executive, said: 'We think this is not a really useful scheme and it should go.

'The Education and Manpower Branch should look at aiming to equip local workers for these jobs, not import people, and we will tell them this,' she added.

Chan Yuen-han, an FTU legislator, agreed there was no need to have Gurkhas working as security guards when local people could be trained up to do the same jobs.

'All they need is basic training, but instead employers have this scheme to employ outsiders,' she said.

'This is very bad for Hong Kong and I want it to stop now.' Chris Hardy, managing director of Jardine Securicor Gurkha Services, applied for 300 places for ex-soldiers under the scheme and was allocated 189.

Though he recognises that out of a maximum of 2,000 places, his quota is a large one, he says Hong Kong firms are still missing out on the experience and specialist skills of the Gurkhas who are used for many highly visible security jobs in Hong Kong such as guarding office and shopping complexes and the homes of the rich and famous.

Under the terms of the Supplementary Labour Scheme, Mr Hardy advertised all the positions to see if they could be filled by local workers.

He said ex-Gurkhas are still keen to work in Hong Kong so they can maintain their family's standard of living after they leave the armed services.

Mr Hardy is now looking to place Gurkhas with firms in Papua New Guinea, India and Brunei while Nigel Collett, managing director of Gurkha International Manpower Services, arranges positions for Gurkhas directly with families where they may act as bodyguards and can get visas as domestic helpers and at sea, where work visas are not required.