Social workers threaten long strike over grants

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am

The social workers' union has warned that it will intensify strike action if the government refuses to review the unpopular lump-sum grant system for non-governmental welfare agencies after a half-day strike tomorrow.

'A longer strike will certainly happen if they don't listen to us,' Social Workers General Union president Peter Cheung Kwok-che said yesterday. 'The government forces us to do so. Our next strike might last for days.'

He also expressed anger at a statement by Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who urged the social workers to ensure that their 'collective leave' action would not disrupt services for disadvantaged people.

'The government is so irresponsible,' Mr Cheung said. 'The problem lies with them, but now they are telling the public that we are creating problems. It is them - they are forcing us to do this.'

He estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 social workers would take half a day's leave to join the stoppage action tomorrow.

Thousands of social workers protested in June. They called on the government to review the lump-sum grant system, introduced in 2000, which they said has led to funding cuts to non-governmental groups and lower salaries for social workers.

The union said it had measures in place to ensure services would not be severely affected and essential services would be maintained.

Welfare chief Matthew Cheung said the Lump-Sum Grant Steering Committee met on August 29 to 'explore possible measures to implement the system more efficiently'.

But Peter Cheung, who was appointed to the committee after the June protest, said the get-together was merely window dressing.

'The government has not made one single promise in the meeting or said how to review the lump-sum grant,' he said.

He added that welfare director Stephen Fisher, who chaired the committee, had turned down his request to return funding for NGOs to pre-2000 levels.