A bosses' ploy to hold down wages, unions say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:50am

The plan to import 330 labourers for the Mai Po railway tunnel has come under fire by the unions who charge that the move would help bosses suppress the wages of local workers.

The Labour Department recently approved an application by the contractors of the high-speed rail link between West Kowloon and Shenzhen to bring in 330 people who have been working on the mainland section of the line to fill the job vacancies.

The chief executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions Mung Siu-tat said the "so-called" vacancies were created by the contractors suppressing the wages for the jobs.

"The job vacancy was such a lie," said Mung, adding that data from the Census and Statistics Department showed the unemployment rate in the construction industry was 6 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, which was almost double the city's overall unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent.

A department spokesman said the government would consult relevant unions before it decided whether or not to approve the import of non-local workers.

But Mung said his union was not consulted or informed until the authority officially approved the plan earlier this month.

Another unionist said the contractors had failed to recruit local workers for the project because they were offering a salary much lower than the average rate in Hong Kong.

Wong Wai-man, chairman of the Bar-bending Industry Workers Solidarity Union said employers were offering bar benders and steel fixers HK$1,076 a day, which is about 30 per cent less than the average of HK$1,514.

Wong said he was worried that importing the non-local workers would create a vicious cycle in the industry.

"The wages will stay low. Young people will then be reluctant to become a construction worker. In the end there will seem to be more job vacancies, and the employers will have more excuses to import workers."