UNIONISTS have launched a self-help programme for the unemployed, saying the Government has failed to deal with the problem. News of the move by the 220,000-strong Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions came as dozens of staff were sacked by the Tin Tin Hot Pot restaurant chain. More than 70 workers from Tin Tin's Causeway Bay and Mongkok restaurants will be told of compensation arrangements this afternoon. The latest casualties bring to several hundred the number of workers in the catering business laid off in the past few days. Fairwood fast food and Mario restaurant chain saw 500 staff laid off on Tuesday while Ocean Palace nightclub sacked 50 workers in the past week. The federation programme includes emergency funding and loans to help workers change to other fields. 'We have been urging the Government to pay attention to the problem but they seem to have turned a deaf ear,' said federation chairman Cheng Yiu-tong. 'We want to tell those suffering that they are not being forgotten.' The union will raise money among its members and then extend the appeal to the public if a charity licence is granted by the Social Welfare Department. It aims to raise $5 million, which will be available for those qualified by the end of October. Those who have been unemployed for more than three months and can prove they are in financial trouble will get help. The one-off grants will range from $1,000 to $5,000. Twenty per cent of the fund will be in the form of loans to people who want to move to other fields. 'They may need cash to buy equipment if they want to set up a cleaning company, for example. Some may need money to print promotional leaflets,' said Mr Cheng. A similar self-help programme was launched by the federation 20 years ago when Hong Kong was in economic recession. 'We are very discouraged that after two decades, we have to launch this programme again. It proves the Government has never rendered its support to our workers,' said Mr Cheng. Senior Labour Officer Raymond Chan Man-leung said the Labour Department had places available for catering workers but was concerned these might dry up. 'I hope these redundancies will not become a trend because if any more succumb it will become quite a headache, not just for the Labour Department but for the community as a whole,' he said. Mr Chan said the sheer size of the Fairwood sackings had prompted the department to set up special counters at its nine branches specifically for former workers of the company. 'We already have over 400 places waiting for Fairwood workers at the moment but as these sackings have only just occurred no workers have come directly to us yet,' he said.