City's largest labour union plans membership expansion drive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong's largest labour union is planning to expand its membership in the next three years as it enters its seventh decade of service.

Cheng Yiu-tong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in April, said the federation aimed to increase its membership from 310,000 to 330,000 this year and to 350,000 by 2010. The federation has about 220 subsidiary unions.

Despite being viewed as a conventional grass-roots rights group, he said the federation had been attracting more white-collar workers and professionals, who accounted for 80 per cent of new members in recent years. 'Professionals have a different culture from the grass roots, and we need to find out their needs for our development,' he said.

Mr Cheng said a lawyers' group and an accountants' group were planning to join the federation. He said the increasing participation by professional groups could reflect their recognition of the federation's 'pragmatic' work.

He said the group faced a high number of members leaving the federation and would need to retain members through its district networks and by recruiting new ones through more proactive promotional activities on the streets.

Mr Cheng said the federation wanted to expand its services on the mainland but faced scant resources to set up more service centres.

He said that prospects of election candidacies may have been one of the factors attracting professionals to join the union, which has an active political role. It holds three seats in the Legislative Council, and Mr Cheng is an executive councillor and local deputy to the National People's Congress.

The union's close ties with the mainland might also help professionals to expand their business there, he said.

Mr Cheng said the union, which plans to field candidates in this year's Legco election, had been approached for support in functional constituency elections but had yet to decide on its candidates.

He said some of the federation's members supported chairman Wong Kwok-kin running for a Legco seat.

But others were concerned that Mr Wong may have less time to handle the union's internal affairs if he became a lawmaker.

Growth story

The number of members the Federation of Trade Unions is seeking by 2010: 350,000