Short shrift for Disneyland protester

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 12:00am

A man who complained about lack of benefits is no longer working for a contractor at the theme park

A local man who became the first Hong Kong Disneyland worker to protest against the US-based entertainment giant's labour practices a week ago is no longer working at the soon-to-be opened theme park.

But neither Disney nor the outsourced contractor would say whether he was fired.

An official for Hong Kong Island Landscape Company, a subsidiary of tycoon Cheng Yu-tung's New World Development and the company contracted to maintain Hong Kong Disneyland's gardens, told the Sunday Morning Post that the 46-year-old protester was no longer working for the firm.

'It was strictly a matter of performance,' said the official, an operations control manager who refused to give his full name. He declined to comment further.

The worker climbed to the top of the 28-metre Space Mountain ride on July 15 to protest against the lack of benefits for park workers. Labour department officials said he was protesting against Disney's decision not to allow outsourced contract workers access to the park's shuttle buses and staff canteen. When he reached the top of the ride he unfurled a banner that read 'No benefits for workers'.

Police and labour officials arrived and were able to persuade the man to climb down after a three-hour standoff.

A Disney spokeswoman also declined to comment directly. 'Meals and transportation are the direct responsibility of contractors,' she said.

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said he believed the incident was an isolated one. However, he added that he would seek the advice of US labour groups in setting up a union for Hong Kong's Disney workers - of which there are about 5,000 - when he attends a convention of American labour activists in Chicago, beginning today.

'We hope to eventually set up a union of Hong Kong Disney workers. Multinationals usually have an agreement with labour unions to conform to the same fair labour policies wherever they do business,' he said.

'I am going to be checking whether Disney has such an international code of conduct, and whether this includes recognising the formation of labour unions.'

He added that his visit to the convention was by invitation from US labour unions and his discussions on Disney with American counterparts were not triggered by last week's protest.

Mr Lee also said he hoped to eventually meet Don Robinson, group managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, after he returns from the US.

Fung Kin-cho, secretary of the Hong Kong Construction Industry and Employees General Union, said there had been about 10 complaints of unpaid wages lodged against Disney by outsourced construction employees in Hong Kong since work began in 2003. All have been satisfactorily resolved.

Meanwhile, Confederation of Trade Unions organising secretary Poon Man-hon said a Disney restaurant staff member had lodged a complaint about the relatively low wages being paid to waiters compared with the rest of the catering industry, and the lack of travel subsidies considering the distance most workers must travel.