Imported labour can help struggling companies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 January, 1999, 12:00am

The labour unions in Hong Kong's manufacturing sector have recently been voicing their opposition to the importation of labour from abroad.

However, have they thought about the problems faced by some factory owners? Hong Kong is going through a period of economic recession and so we are all experiencing hard times.

The unions argue that importing foreign labour would only make things worse. They are concerned that with the shrinking job market, if workers from abroad were allowed in, this would make things worse for local people looking for work. This would lead to an increased rate of both unemployment and underemployment.

Yet, have these unions thought about helping their members to improve their work and language skills, so that they could compete more effectively in the job market, or of helping to improve efficiency in the workplace? Workers also fear that if people were brought from abroad, it would lead to a reduction in wages. No one wants to see his or her salary cut. However, company owners are just trying their best to become more competitive and prevent their firms from closing down.

If a company is doing well, then an employer cannot justify importing labour. Under such conditions, it would be right for a union to protest.

On the other hand, if the firm is experiencing losses and fighting for survival, it is reasonable for it to import foreign labour. In these troubled times, the unions should not condemn such companies for trying to stay afloat.

If employers, the unions and the Government could sit down and discuss this matter and try to work together, I am sure they could arrive at a mutual understanding and Hong Kong would be likely to make a quicker recovery.

MARGAUX YEUNG New Territories