Record May Day rallies predicted

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am


Sunday's Labour Day in Hong Kong will be more eventful than most in past years as the controversial minimum wage law kicks in.

This is the prediction of union leaders, who say employment disputes stirred by confusion over the new law are likely to draw record turnouts for the May 1 marches. More than 8,000 people are expected to join the two Labour Day rallies - organised by the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) and the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) respectively. Last year saw about 4,500.

Calling for more labour protection, unionists said more would take to the streets because of conflict over whether rest days and meal breaks should be paid when the wage law is implemented on May 1.

The theme for CTU's rally will extend to broader concerns over market dominance of tycoons and large corporations. Lee Cheuk-yan, CTU chief and lawmaker, said the slogan would be: 'Down with collusion of government and capital, fight for a decent livelihood.'

'We hope to make May Day like the annual July 1 march for workers,' he said. 'We are contacting different student, labour and minority groups to support our march.'

Lee, who helped spearhead the minimum wage legislation, has been the target of criticism by many small to medium-sized companies.

The union - with 80 subsidiaries - predicts 5,000 people will join the march, up from 3,500 last year.

He called the minimum wage 'the very first step'. 'We urge for other measures including the right of collective bargaining and standard working hours,' he said.

The Journalists Association will join the march, calling for a five day week and decent wages.

Young activists' associations such as the Federation of Students have also been invited to join the rally, Lee said. Because of recent radical action by young protesters and stepped up police security measures, the march would be just from Victoria Park to the government offices in Central. 'There are no plans for further actions and we will also ask young protesters to restrain themselves.'

The FTU, with 181 subsidiaries, expected about 3,000 people to join the march, similar to last year.

FTU lawmaker Ip Wai-ming said mounting inflation would also stimulate a high turnout.

'Monitoring the minimum wage law and calling for a universal retirement scheme will be the main theme of our protest march,' he said.