Unions warned yesterday of growing discontent among the working poor after predicting that unemployment could climb to eight per cent next year. The unions said more employers would be scrapping year-end bonuses and the worsening job situation might lead to strikes or riots. The bonus, or 'double-pay' - typically an extra month of salary - would come under increasing attack because employers would take advantage of a general feeling that it was an award, said legislator and chairman of the Confederation of Trade Unions, Lau Chin-shek. 'It is not an award and it's not the same as the discretionary bonus which is paid for good performance. The double-pay is part of your overall annual salary. 'Before you take a job, you calculate the double pay as part of your annual salary. Cutting the double-pay amounts to a salary cut,' Mr Lau said. Union leaders feared more people would take out their stress on their families or commit suicide. Legislator and the confederation's general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan said: 'Society is not at peace. We're afraid it will build up to a point where people will riot. That's usually how riots start, when there's a lot of people with individual anger festering.' Unionists urged workers to channel their frustrations in a positive manner by upgrading their skills and joining or starting unions at work. Membership of the confederation this year increased by 10 per cent, the largest increase ever experienced, propelling total membership to a record high of 140,000 people and 45 subsidiary unions. 'We believe uniting is the way to go. There is more power in having a collective voice,' Mr Lee said. The forecast for the new year was revealed yesterday as the confederation announced its list of top 10 labour news stories for 1998. Topping the list was the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) attack on the Government's repeal of three pre-handover labour laws - including a collective bargaining law which would have required employers to enter into talks with trade unions before carrying out pay cuts and lay-offs. Mr Lee said: 'We chose that as the most important item because it is the first time the ILO said Hong Kong violated international labour conventions. 'It could have an important effect in serving as a thorn to spur the Government into reinstating the pre-handover laws.' Mr Lee, Mr Lau and fellow unionist legislator Leung Yiu-chong plan to resubmit bills for the repealed laws, which would also have protected workers who joined unions against discrimination. They believed the laws were needed as they expected high unemployment for at least two more years as well as more lay-offs and pay cuts.