Post-handover surge for pro-Beijing union

More than 20,000 civil servants have joined a pro-Beijing umbrella union rather than its pro-democracy rival since the handover.

The number of government staff represented by the Government Employees' Association, a long-established civil service union belonging to the veteran pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, has increased from 15,000 to 35,000 over the past two years.

Ten unions - some of which are also members of the Government Employees' Association - have joined the federation directly. The 10 represent 2,600 staff.

They include unions representing employees from the municipal services, which will be restructured after the provisional municipal councils are scrapped.

The federation represents 280,000 employees.

Federation chairman Cheng Yiu-tong says government trade unions may have joined his group because they believe it has more bargaining power with the Government due to a good relationship with the administration.

'The unions may also believe that we have an advantage because we have an executive councillor,' Mr Cheng said.

'The fact that our union has the strongest membership also increases our bargaining power.' Federation vice-chairman Tam Yiu-chung, who is a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, is also an executive councillor.

The pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions, which consists of 51 member unions representing 140,500 employees, has not admitted any new government trade union members since the handover.

A union representing government drivers withdrew after the handover, leaving only five civil service unions with about 8,000 staff.

Federation secretary-general Lee Cheuk-yan said his group would continue to try to mobilise civil service groups to fight for their rights.