Macau labour protest planned

A pro-democracy labour union in Macau is to stage a protest march tomorrow to commemorate International Labour Day and urge the Government to reduce the number of imported labourers.

Jeremy Lei Man-chao, vice-chairman of the Macau Workers' Union, said between 300 and 500 workers were expected to join the march from Iao Hon Garden to government headquarters.

'We have organised a 40-strong squad to prevent scuffles and violence which happened in last year's demonstrations,' he said.

On May 1 last year, jobless workers staged the first large-scale demonstration since the handover of the former Portuguese enclave, scuffling with police in the ensuing demonstrations. Police also fired tear-gas to break up a workers' protest in July.

The union, which was set up following the demonstration last May, is calling for the Macau Government to safeguard the rights of local workers. 'The number of imported labourers should be cut to about 20,000 and the Government should set up a minimum wage,' said Mr Lei, also a member of the executive committee of the pro-democracy New Macau Association.

There are 25,700 mainland workers in Macau and the unemployment rate is 6.3 per cent.

In Hong Kong, about 20 unionists yesterday marched to the Central Government Offices, chanting and carrying banners in support of workers rights.

Lee Kai-ming, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, urged the Government to offer more help and draw up legislation to protect unskilled workers.

'Uneducated workers lose jobs in a knowledge-based economy. The gap between the rich and poor widens and hardly any of these workers benefit from the economic recovery,' he said.

The pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions will also stage a march today and will hold a forum on workers' rights tomorrow to mark International Labour Day.