A leading international labour group has stepped up pressure on the Government to revive laws on collective bargaining. 'The right to bargain freely on working conditions with employers is an essential element of freedom of association,' said the Committee on Freedom of Association, part of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). '[ILO] requests the Government give serious consideration to adopting provisions . . . for determining the representative status of trade unions for collective bargaining purposes.' This is the third year the ILO has made the demand. Legislation backing collective bargaining rights for workers was passed just before the handover but was soon scrapped by the provisional legislature. The Government has previously rejected the calls, arguing that it was more suitable for Hong Kong only to encourage collective bargaining and that it had set up ways to achieve this. One such measure was the establishment of committees comprising representatives of unions, employers and the Labour Department to provide a channel for communication. Eight have been set up in various industries. Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, who tabled the ill-fated collective bargaining law in 1997, criticised the Government for ignoring the ILO's request. 'It is a breach of international labour conventions and of the Basic Law as well,' he said, claiming the Government's measures did not go far enough. Mr Lee also supported the committee's request to scrap restrictions on how trade unions can use their funds. Trade unions can only use their money to support members standing in local elections but not for other political purposes. The committee said: 'To restrict the freedom of trade unions to administer and utilise their funds . . . for normal and lawful trade union purposes is incompatible with the principles of freedom of association.' It urged the Government to amend its employment law. Mr Lee, who is a core member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, said the restriction had stopped unions taking part in some activities. 'Apart from standing in elections, we sometimes have to organise some political lobbying or campaign,' Mr Lee said. 'But we would violate the law if we spent money on holding these activities.'