Letters to the Editor, May 13, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 1:52am

Workers' low pay makes life difficult

Thousands turned out for May day marches on May 1, because so many workers in Hong Kong believe they are being poorly treated.

They do not feel they are earning enough to meet their basic needs.

Some of them do not get adequate meal or toilet breaks while others work long hours without getting overtime pay. These people are entitled to better treatment.

Their problems are made worse by the fact that average wages cannot keep pace with the rising rate of inflation in Hong Kong.

So many employers here have appeared to be unmoved by the problems being experienced by their workforce and reluctant to submit to their demands. That is why thousands of workers joined the May day marches.

The dockworkers who went on strike succeeded in getting higher pay and improved working conditions.

Other groups of workers who have justifiable grievances should take note of this success and feel encouraged to take industrial action, if necessary, to force employers to listen to them and deal with their grievances.

Leung Hin-chun, Tsuen Wan


It is time for leaders to bury the hatchet

Germany and France have to reconcile their differences constructively, if they are to lead the European Union out of the deepening crisis.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is right to advocate austerity measures, which fundamentally aim to reduce the huge public debts within the euro zone.

However, instead of imposing a universal model indiscriminately throughout Europe, there should be flexibility in relation to the schedule of debt reduction, as well as emphasis on the necessary measures that could possibly boost long-term growth among nations with regard to their unique situations.

French President Francois Hollande has to understand that tentative reforms will not get France anywhere.

Savvy decisions, including simplifying its complex labour laws, have to be made if the country is to halt the decline in its industrial competitiveness.

France will also have to acknowledge that tough measures implemented by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - which cost him his job - helped Germany boost its productivity and economic fortunes and brought it to where it now stands.

France and Germany have a duty to shape a new European vision, given their size and credibility.

If a strong European Union is to once again prevail, it is crucial that they arrive at a compromise.

Open and constructive bilateral negotiations should commence as soon as possible.

Samantha Datwani, Fortress Hill


Allegations of racism are hypocritical

Recently, the South China Morning Post has highlighted issues of discrimination against Chinese.

Stories include a report on a study showing that Hong Kong immigrants to Britain in the 1960s suffered racial discrimination (as if no one else did) and the presence of some paedophile expatriate teachers on the mainland (as if there was no abuse of students by mainland teachers).

Most recently, there was a story about a swiftly pulled General Motors TV commercial in which Fu Manchu, the "yellow peril" incarnate, was depicted (as if Europeans are not depicted as evil in mainland nationalist epics).

Somehow discrimination or bad treatment given to Chinese is much worse than that given, for example, to foreign helpers, South Asians and asylum seekers in Hong Kong.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po


TV stations failing to offer anything new

I realise I may be in the minority because I don't have satellite TV, so I don't have much to watch on this city's two terrestrial channels.

But let me just pose a question (which I realise is useless since it won't get a response) as to why the Downton Abbey series shown the week before last is an old one. There has been a new series out for a while, so why is wealthy Hong Kong so backward as to not be able to afford getting the latest? Must we keep getting third-rate shows and films, and delayed versions of the few good ones available on the market?

Does it have to do with a lack of competition, or a lack of will or of imagination on the part of the folks in charge of our TV stations?

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau


Still too many accidents in workplace

In Hong Kong, the number of occupational injuries in all workplaces stood at 40,578 and there were 191 occupational fatalities in 2011.

Just one death is one too many and these figures are a real concern.

In October of last year, an inflated pipe plug inside a sewage outfall pipe suddenly ruptured during the concreting process, causing the death of one worker and injuries to two.

In March, seven people were injured when a lift [in a North Point commercial building] plunged to the ground after all four cables broke. It is accidents like this the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health's (IOSH) Hong Kong branch is working hard to prevent. In the next few years, public infrastructure expenditure in Hong Kong is estimated to exceed HK$70 billion annually - it's vital this doesn't lead to a surge in accidents, illness, injury or even fatality in the workplace.

Last year, accidents in the construction industry claimed 24 lives. It is a great challenge for all practitioners to prudently control risks through safe design management to prevent the number of serious accidents in construction increasing.

Proper attention must be paid to worker protection. Regional air pollution also presents health risks to employees. Studies by health experts have found that poor roadside pollution levels are responsible for more than 2,000 premature deaths per year.

Good health and safety can play an important part in driving efficiencies, reducing lost work days, and sustaining a thriving business.

We cannot shrug our shoulders and say there is little we can do regarding work safety. It is necessary to strike the right balance and achieve a healthy and sustainable working environment.

A new mindset is needed, to put workers before works and plan works projects that are safer and healthier. All parties need to work together to make the workplace safer.

Sammy Wan, chair, IOSH Hong Kong branch


Rural reforms face tough obstacles

I made a trip to Jiangxi province in February.

My destination was a remote village located in a mountainous area of Xiushui county. On the way to the village, I saw lots of cars with couples who were getting married. I was told by locals that, as many young people worked outside the county, they came home to get married around the Spring Festival holiday period, because then relatives and friends would be home and could join them.

Of Xiushui's total population of around 800,000, about 300,000 are migrant workers. Bad transportation and poor infrastructure are key factors that made people from this poor area of China decide to find work in rich coastal provinces such as Guangdong.

One farmer said his son, who worked in Guangdong, called the family whenever he read about rainfall in the area, as he was worried about the fragile state of a nearby reservoir which could pose a threat to farmers in low-lying areas.

The authorities are trying to improve the environment and infrastructure.

I saw one poster which said, "No matter where you are, it's better to start your business in your hometown." A local official said its purpose was to try and get migrant workers to return to Xiushui. He said the government had set up industrial parks, to help these people start their own businesses.

However, they are limited by poor infrastructure in the countryside. More schools would have to be provided if there was a large influx of returnees.

Overall, I support the central government's campaign to urbanise rural areas. I hope that, as these areas develop, more migrant workers will return home.

Jin Haixing, Beijing


E-textbooks no help to poorer families

I agree with Cannis Wong Ming-yan that the estimated 3.3 per cent rise in textbook prices is wrong ("Textbook monopolies unacceptable", May 7).

This increase will cause difficulties for families on low incomes. They are already struggling to cope with daily living expenses with the prices of commodities constantly rising. Some of these parents will find it impossible to buy all the books their children need. How can a student study without all the required textbooks?

The Education Bureau should not allow publishers to impose these price rises.

Nor do I think electronic-textbooks offer a solution. The tablets needed to read them are too expensive for poor families. Also, there are health concerns, particularly for young people's eyesight.

The bureau should not advocate the use of e-books in schools.

Yo Wong, Sheung Shui