THE Year of the Rooster was greeted by the Cathay Pacific flight attendants' 17-day-long strike. The scene of flight attendants braving chill and rain against grey-suited executives moved the Hongkong community to support the cabin crew. This support grew further when the strike was prolonged by management's insistence on including a victimisation clause in the settlement agreement. It is now clear that the intention of the company was, and is, to break the union, and they are able to do so because of the lack of protection for the rights to strike. The dramatic dispute exposed blatantly the long-neglected problems of workers' collective rights. The Hongkong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has long been wanting to complain to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) about the non-compliance of the Hongkong Government with the International Labour Convention numbers 87 and 98, the Convention on the Freedom of Association, and the Convention on the Rights to Organise and Collective Bargaining. Although the British Government had ratified the two Conventions for Hongkong, the Hongkong Government had not fulfilled its international obligation by applying them. The reasons are obvious. The two Conventions basically deal with the collective rights of workers to organise, to strike and to take part in collective bargaining. The unspoken policy of the Hongkong Government has always been the discouragement of thedevelopment of the collective strength of workers. The Hongkong Government has always been run by the business sector, and business interest has always dominated Government policy. As a result, the Government Policy on Industrial Relations is to ensure employers' dominating role, and to make sure this dominance is not challenged by the collective strength of trade unions. Therefore, the weakness of the Hongkong labour movement is mainly as a result of Government policy, although other factors such as the historical domination of the union movement by different political loyalties, and continuous economic growth also count. The mission of the HKCTU is to strengthen the labour movement. To fulfil its mission, aggressive organising must, of course, be undertaken as the top priotity; but equally important is to change the legislative framework concerning workers' collective rights. The reasoning behind the HKCTU's complaint to the ILO is to put international pressure on the Hongkong Government. ALTHOUGH the conclusion reached by the ILO will not have a legal application in Hongkong, it is the international opinion that I believe will effect changes. The complaint is the non-compliance of the Hongkong Government with International Labour Conventions 87 and 98. Firstly, looking at ILC 87, the Government ratified this with modifications, which are both unnecessary and obsolete. The present Hongkong Trade Union Ordinance does not allow unions from different industries to federate. This is in direct contravention of workers' freedom to association, and strips away the rights of union federations to register as trade union bodies. The ILC also stipulates that unions should have the right to join international union organisations, but the Trade Union Ordinance requires prior approval from the Governor to affiliate internationally. ILC 87 Article 3 states that unions shall have the right to organise their own administration and activities and to formulate their own programmes. The supervisory bodies of the ILO confirmed that this is an implicit affirmation of the right to strike. In 1991, when the Hongkong Government used the Letter Patent to threaten with dismissal postal workers planning a sit-in, the case was put forward to the ILO and the Government was found to be violating this Article. ILO case law elaborates further that the threat of victmisation is in contravention of this Article. The law in Hongkong allows dismissal or other forms of reprisal against strikers, and therefore it should be in violation of the Convention. Turning to ILC 98, Article 1 states that workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment. The recent Wellcome dispute again confirmed the inadequacy of legislation in protection workers against victimisation. In this case, two workers were dismissed and one transferred to another post. During the investigation of the case, a Labour Departmentofficial said it was a waste of time since it was very difficult to prove the intention of the employers was union discrimination. ILO case law indicated that the burden of proof should be put on the employers and not the employees, and there should be remedial measures for reinstatement. But the present Employment Ordinance Anti Union Discrimination Legislation is just a protection on paper and is impossible to enforce. It is almost impossible to prove the intent of employers as discriminatory in essence, and even if found guilty, the maximum fine is $20,000, which is a cheap price to pay for getting rid of a union. Moving on, Article 4 of ILC 98 states that governments should promote voluntary negotiation between employers' organisations and employees organisations. The Hongkong Government has always been passive in the promotion of workers' collective bargaining rights. Even worse, it encouraged the setting up of the Joint Consultative Committee, which has been used by employers against trade unions. Under the present legislative framework, employers do not have to recognise unions and to negotiate with unions. The present system can only force confrontation between labour and management, and is not conducive to the improvement of labour relations. Hongkong's neighbouring countries of Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and so on, all have legislation to ensure workers' rights to collective bargaining, which require employers to recognise unions. We do not see why Hongkong should be the exception.