Worker import plan 'easy way out'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 July, 1997, 12:00am

Unionists yesterday criticised government proposals to import more workers for the construction industry.

Confederation of Trade Unions secretary-general Lee Cheuk-yan said the Government was short-sighted.

'It always looks for a convenient way out,' he said. 'Why doesn't it spend more time on labour training and re-training?' He said training for new immigrants and those who wanted to change their jobs could solve the problem.

Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping admitted on Sunday that the Government was considering increasing the number of foreign workers to meet Tung Chee-hwa's pledge to build 85,000 new flats a year.

But he said the decision would depend on a government review which would be finished by the end of the year.

The increasing demand for construction labour would be offset by the end of the Chek Lap Kok project, Mr Lee said.

'They are not going to build more houses tomorrow. We have ample time to train enough people for future needs,' he said.

'I don't see there is an imminent need to have more labour.

'If you don't train people early enough, of course there will be a shortage.' A spokesman for the Federation of Trade Unions said it needed to see the review before commenting.

'If the Government wants to import labour on top of that specified in the Supplementary Labour Importation Scheme, we definitely will reject it.'