Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2011, 12:00am


Airport workers labouring under a different set of standards

Hong Kong International Airport recently won another two awards for excellence for its various services, giving it nine awards so far this year, including the best airport in China from Business Traveller China.

The airport authority noted in a statement that, 'Stanley Hui Hon-chung, chief executive officer of Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), attributed this outstanding achievement to the relentless efforts of the airport community in pursuing excellence in every facet of passenger service'.

However, one area where the airport won't be receiving any prizes is for some of the labour practices that go on there.

The recent agreement between Jardine Aviation Services, a unit of the Jardine Matheson Group, and its employees union, has raised eyebrows.

The union had been threatening strike action unless pay and conditions were improved. Workers reportedly were required to work more than 15 hours a day and some had only two days off a month, while others worked for 20 days continuously.

Working for seven days continuously breaches basic corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. Even the eventual agreement, which gives ground staff the right to refuse to work for seven continuous days, breaches the standards and those of the International Labour Organisation.

One observer commented to Lai See: 'What is not okay in Nike, Adidas, Zara, H&M, Puma, Wal-Mart, Tesco, Carrefour and M&S factories all around the world seems to be quite okay when it comes to Hong Kong Airport.' The observer added that the agreement 'appeared to be moving in the wrong direction compared to other parts of the world'.

An airport authority spokesman initially said that the labour arrangements were a matter for Jardine and its employees rather than the airport authority. A later statement said the authority had been monitoring the situation and 'was happy to learn that an agreement had been reached'.

The airport, which boasts on its website that it is a keen adherent of CSR, said: 'At Hong Kong International Airport, corporate social responsibility shapes all of our activities and operations.' But apparently it does not inform its view of the labour arrangements practised by companies that operate at the airport.

Celebrating the media

Today is Journalists' Day on the mainland, which according to is a day, 'to praise the hard work of journalists. The day is celebrated to acknowledge the prominent achievement of journalists in promoting the development of China's journalism'.

That should be the 'officially approved journalist'. Those who don't meet with official approval don't have much to celebrate except perhaps that they have gone another day without being arrested.

Being a journalist on the mainland can be a dangerous business. Reporters at coal mining disasters are either bribed, beaten or sometimes killed. A reporter for Luoyang TV working on the illegal recycling of waste oil into cooking oil was recently stabbed to death.

Police in Henan and two other provinces later detained 32 people and recovered 100 tonnes of so-called gutter oil. We salute you.

No honey, no money

For those of you mourning the fraying of the once proud European Union, the following may be a reminder of why it might not be an altogether bad thing if it disappeared.

No country or empire has ever had such a talent for framing absurd laws as the eurocrats in Brussels. They've done their best to put the cheese makers out of business - now they're going after the beekeepers. A European court has ruled that pollen must be listed as an ingredient of honey.

So what, you might ask? It seems the eurocrats require all jars of honey to then prove that no pollen that may be in the honey is genetically modified.

Beekeepers are up in arms. 'Honey has always contained pollen,' Patrick Robinson, the factory manager at Rowse Honey, Britain's biggest supplier of retail honey, told The Daily Telegraph.

'Beekeepers don't put pollen in honey as an ingredient. Bees put it in there because it gets stuck to them when they are foraging. To say honey contains pollen is like saying peanuts contain nuts. There is a tiny amount of GM pollen all around the world now. But beekeepers do not tend to put their hives next to cultivated crops.'

Watch this space. (And stock up on British honey before it vanishes from Wellcome and ParknShop shelves.)