Why the government must act in the social workers' dispute

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2007, 12:00am

The increasing number of protests over pay disputes has developed into a serious social issue in Hong Kong. It has exposed the unfairness in society and damaged the city's image as a modern metropolis.

Take the social workers' protest as an example. Apparently, the government has provided sufficient funding for some social-work organisations, but the money has not boosted the wages of junior staff. Where, then, has it gone?

By contrast, it was confusing to see how quickly doctors and nurses got their pay rises so soon after their own protests. I wonder why that happened so quickly.

I watched a TV programme this week in which a government official claimed it was a social worker's duty to serve, and maintain the harmony of, society. Therefore, the bureaucrat argued, they should not protest and create social instability.

The official seemed to be saying that the disruption was all the fault of those social workers who joined the protest.

But are they supposed to stay silent and just accept unfairness in the workplace? The government, as the provider of funding, has claimed that it gave non-governmental organisations all the money they were entitled to. Further, it says it's not responsible for monitoring the operations of such groups. If this is really the way our government handles taxpayer's money, then I am extremely disappointed. Don't forget, it is in fact taxpayers' money.

The government should act boldly to ensure transparency and fairness in these organisations. This should not be limited to social workers, but extend to other public groups and local institutes that receive government funding.

I think most Hongkongers would agree with me when I say I don't want our government to simply outsource its work to outsiders without any monitoring, then wash its hands of the situation. If the government keeps ignoring such problems, it is clear to me that the unfairness will soon spread rapidly to many sectors of society.

By not acting, the government could see more pay disputes escalating into industrial action.

Elisa Suen, Tsuen Wan