Main parties in disarray over policy on importing workers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 November, 1997, 12:00am

The three major political parties failed to agree on labour importation policy.

Two amendments, introduced by Wong Siu-yee of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance and Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun of the Liberal Party, were rejected.

These urged the Government to review labour importation and import workers in sectors where there were shortages.

The original motion, by Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, opposed the Government's proposed labour importation scheme, saying it would cut workers' wages further.

Mr Chan urged the Government to merge the employment-related offices of the Labour Department and the Employees' Retraining Board.

But that amendment was also voted down by the pro-business parties and independent legislators who maintained labour importation was needed.

Mr Chan's motion was rejected by a vote of 17 to 15 with four abstentions.

The Secretary for Education and Manpower, Joseph Wong Wing-ping, maintained that the Government would import foreign workers if necessary.

But Mr Wong vowed the new policy would balance the interests of different groups in the community.

'The debate on labour importation is really a disturbing problem for me, but the Government can promise that local workers will have first priority in getting jobs,' he said.

But unionists and grassroots legislators were worried the Government had underestimated the scheme's impact on local workers.

Chan Yuen-han of the Federation of Trade Unions said: 'I can't believe the Government will keep its promise to let local workers have the first priority in getting jobs because judging from the past experience, the Government will forget its promise after we approve the scheme.' Unionist Lee Kai-ming said the Government should have learnt a lesson from the airport when it underestimated the number of local workers and imported too much foreign labour.