Strike organiser admits mix-up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am

The organiser of the social workers' strike has admitted failing to tell protesters in advance of an arrangement that the welfare chief would only accept one petition in person.

Speaking on an RTHK radio show yesterday, Peter Cheung Kwok-che, the convenor of the Fight for Equal Pay Equal Work Alliance, blamed the chaos on miscommunication between organisers and strikers.

The alliance had called out social workers to push for a review of welfare funding policy on Wednesday.

'I agree that in our internal co-ordination we failed to tell protesters clearly that it was prearranged that the director would only accept the first petition,' said Mr Cheung.

He said organisers had planned to arrange for strikers to take turns marching from Southorn Playground to Wu Chung House in Wan Chai in groups of a few hundred.

They had agreed with the government that the director of social welfare, Stephen Fisher, would only accept the petition from the first group, Mr Cheung said, 'but when the second and third group of protesters arrived, they wondered why the director did not show up.'

The one-day strike by 3,000 workers turned into a standoff with police as protesters tried to force their way into the first-floor podium of Wu Chung House, where the Social Welfare Department headquarters is.

Mr Fisher said the misunderstanding arose because strikers might not have known of the deal. He said he accepted only one petition as he had to visit a prison.

The secretary of the Lump Sum Grant Steering Committee accepted a petition from the second group, said Mr Fisher.

He said another HK$330 million a year had been granted to NGOs to use for staff pay rises.

The department has received five complaints about how welfare groups spend the additional grants and on pay adjustments and investigation is in progress, Mr Fisher said.