五一勞動節 － 互助採訪隊報導系列之四
May day – mutually aiding interview reporting series (4 of 5)
For this year’s may day, the international workers’ day, the grassroots.action.media cooperated with 5 grassroots organizations (Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association; old district autonomous advance group; New Arrival Women Alliance; Kwu Tung Support Group; Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong) and formed the mutually aiding interview reporting teams, each organization provided a couple of questions, a couple of the organizations managed to arrange their members to participate in the discussion and the interviewing within a tight time frame. Let us now listen to the people who participated in the may day’s march, and learn of their views on the grassroots issues.
採訪隊有何目的？Missions of the interview reporting teams?
1) Allowing chances for the participants of the grassroots media project to engage with the members of the grassroots organizations;
2) Allowing chances for the participants of the grassroots media project and the members of the grassroots organizations to practice interviewing and report making;
3) Allowing chances for the participantsZ of the grassroots media project and the members of the grassroots organizations to learn of the concerns and issues of other grassroots organizations;
4) Allowing chances for the people who joined the march to express their views and thoughts on these issues to the public;
5) Allowing us to report on the grassroots issues which the mass medias have no interest in.
Chelly (participant of the 7th grassroots media internship)
Terry narcissan (grassroots.action.media)
每逢五一勞動節，維園至金鐘的路上都會飄起不同勞工團體的鮮艷旗幟，從大聲公傳來被電波扭曲的口號，廉價卡紙列印的橫額。除了營營役役的打工仔，參與遊行 的還有誰？除了職工盟的三大訴求（立法標準工時、落實全民退保、取消強積金對沖），勞工還遭受什麼不被看見的剝削？我們在遊行隊伍中訪問了他們，談談工 作，談談困境與解決的可能。
In every May Day, the international workers’ day, the road from the Victoria park to admiralty will be filled up with colorful flags of various labour organization, distorted slogans from the loudhailers, banners printed with cheap placards. besides the painstaking labours, who else are participating in the march? besides the 3 main demands of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (legislate standard working hours, realize universal pension, remove offsetting of the mandatory provident fund), are there other unseen exploitation that the workers are experiencing? we interviewed them during the march, to talk about works, difficulties and the possibilites of resolutions.
Winnie: dignity of a patient care assistant
Winnie worked as a patient care assistant in public hospital before she retired from it, and her responsibility was to take care of the patients in the intensive care unit. Workload for a medical personnel is already very heavy, often working overtime without overtime pay, and it is especially difficult when on overnight shift. When being asked of the
relationship with the management of the hospital, she stated “everyone has an authority over us", the attitude of even the nurses are very bad, they don’t even address the assistants by name when they ordered for their services. The long working hours and the pressure caused her to suffer from moods disorder, and have to seek consultation from the doctor and be on medication. She once applied for leave with the doctor’s certificate, but her manager only play around with the words.Since it adviced that she is not suitable for works in the wards, her manager assigned her to cleaning duties rather than allowing her to take leave and rest.
Winnie do have doubts about whether the labour laws could strengthen the power of discourse of the workers. Because the superiors had ways to go around the rules in practice and the workers would quite oftenly had to swallow it because they were limited by their economical pressure. She once tried to write a complaint letter to the Hospital Authority, but most of the colleagues were afraid to sign on because they were scared that they would be digging their own grave. The manager would not violently fire people, but they could obviously freeze you out: when Winnie was sick, she was being assigned by the manager to just sit in the pantry and not allowed to do anything everyday, saying that the hospital did not want her to have any accident during work and be made responsible for it; and the colleagues would find it unfair, they would talk bad of her.Therefore, she thought that it is difficult for workers themselves to pressure their superior collectively.
Winnie did tried to get in touch with the workers’ union, which organized many activities just like the “DAB". But everytime when she mentioned the above difficulties, they would just said that it would be discussed in the next meeting, and never came back with any results; all they did was just dinners and gatherings. “better to rely on yourself rather on the others", Winnie always felt that the working condition could only be better, if people could help out each other, not caring
just of their own benefits, and the superior could be more considerate towards the workers, like in the old days.
Irene: every worker has the power to fight for their rights
Unlike Winnie, Irene worked as a caregiver of a hostel for the mentally handicapped. she served at The Mental Health Association of Hong Kong, workers there are fighting for the extension of the meal time from half an hour to one hour, but she did not participated in the discussions,which were handled by the colleagues of the union.
對於不同種族家務工參與遊行，Irene認為大家都應該爭取自己的權益。看到有家務工團體舉著“Wage Increase $5,000”的牌子，她理解現時家務工工資並不高，且留意到與本地勞工的工資差距很大。但對於應否將她們納入最低工資保障，Irene坦言能爭取到固然好，但由於僱主為她們提供食宿、保險，擔心僱主因負擔增大而不肯接受，所以她提到僱傭雙方應取一個工資中間數，並達成共識。（按：現時移工月薪$4,210，按照每月工作26日、每日工作8小時來計，她們的時薪為$20左右；遊行當日她們要求月薪$5,000，按同樣計算方法，時薪為$24。調查顯示，多數移工每日工作時間約12至16個鐘。）
Talking about domestic workers of various ethnicities, Irene thinks that everyone should fight for their own rights. Seeing the “Wage Increase, $5,000″ placards that the domestic workers’ organizations were raising, she understood that the wage of the domestic worker was not high, and the substantial difference in the wage of them and the local workers. But when asked of whether they should also be included in the protection of the statutory minimum wage, Irene honestly responded that it would certainly be good if it could succeed, but she worried that the employers might not accept because of the burden on them, since they have to provide food, accommodation and insurance for the worker.Therefore, she said that the employer and the worker should find a middle ground acceptable to both and come to consensus with it. (editor’s notes: the current monthly wage for the migrant workers is $4,210, if calculate with 8 hours’ work per day and 26 workdays per month, their hourly wage is about $20; they demand for the monthly wage of $5,000 in the march, the hourly wage is about $24 with the same calculation. As researches shown, most of the migrant workers are working 12 to 16 hours a day.)
Irene do have colleagues who came from mainland china, they came to Hong Kong 8 to 10 years ago, they worked as seamstress in factories, retail workers and at elderly homes when they first came to hong kong. She felt that there were differences working with colleagues from mainland china, mainly beacuse of the cultural differences. major differences were shown in the way of work, but she thought that if the result is good, then it is not necessary to force the others to accept one’s own way.
Ms. Lee: the very basic living condition
Ms. Lee joined the march because she wants to live a life that full – to
fight for the universal pension of $3,500 per month. before retirement, she worked as a bus driver for 23 years. she said that her boss then required them to maintain a good service attitude to the passengers.However, most of the complaints were not about the service attidude, but some other pointless allegations, like the late arrival of the buses. It was obvious that the problem was the scheduling of the bus trips, but the bosses would not deal with it. She said although the bus drivers did have unions, like the K.M.B. Staff Union, but they did not managed to better (enhance) the working conditions. When asked about the “collective bargaining power" raised by many labour organizations, she said that it would be an important channel to communicate with the bosses.
Although living in the new territories, Ms. Lee did heard about the
urban renewal projects in ShamShuiPo and the others. When asked of how the Urban Renewal Authority should resettle the residents affected by the projects, she thought enough compensation is the most important, followed by the appropriate accommodation arrangement, because it is the very basic condition of living; and then it would be resettling the shops with shops, to compensate the neighbour business of the affected district, “you are disrrupting lives that they lived for ten twenty year!" she imagined, adapting to the new environment after the move would take a long time, and it could be much farther away from school and work, so the transportation could become a problem.
Ms. Lee is not really familiar with the demands of the domestic workers of various ethnicities, and guessed (it was actually right) that it would be about wage increase. originally, she mistakenly thought that the migrant workers would have a monthly salary of seven to eight
thousand, but after we informed her that the monthly salary is $4,210,
she thought that the salary of the migrant workers are rather low, when compared with the statutory minimum wage of the local workers. She was not familiar with the expenses of the migrant workers, but according to her friends who had experience in employing migrant workers, she would said their current salary might not be not enough (insufficient), considering that their accommodation and food were covered. However, when she learnt of the agency fee that they had to settle and the money that they had to send to their families, she agreed that it would actually be quite difficult and support the fight of the migrant workers for their rights. When asked about the demand for working hours protection which the migrant worker organizations are also fighting for, she thought that the standard working hours protection and the wage increase should go hand in hand, without which, the working class would have to rather accept long working hours to earn enough.
As for workers of newly arrived migrants, Ms. Lee had only meet a few, but she thought that the major problem at work would be the anguage barrier. asked about her impression of the newly arrived migrants, she said that so long it is for the stability and prosperity of hong kong, people from whatever places should not have different treatments.
Shing: the policies forgot about feelings and emotions
Marching together with his little daughter, Shing is working as a waiter in the catering services. Working for 13 to 14 hours a day and working overtime without pay is always happening. he thought that it is difficult for catering workers to fight for wage increase and working hours protection: first of all, there are not many active unions and their bargaining power is quite weak. in addition, due to the high tunrover of the trade, it is actually more practical to change to another job rather than to spend a long time to struggle with the employer without much guaranteed. when talking about the enhancement of the labour laws, he pointed out that the standard working hours is the most important; besides, the 4-18 requirement (the employee should be working for the employer continuously for 4 weeks and not less than 18 hours per week) for the worker to enjoy protection of the labour regulations should be abolished to protect the rights of the casualized part-time workers.
Shing do have quite a few colleagues who are newly arrived migrants. He said the most difficult barrier is language and communication, but there is no problem in working abilities, which has no relationship with nationality.
When talking about the domestic workers of various ethnicities, Shing thought that since hong kong thought of itself as “world city", allowing people of different nationalities to raise their demand is absolutely reasonable. Accordingly to his understanding, the main demand of the migrant workers is the realization of the minimum wage and the fight against employers’ violence on them. Focusing on the latter, he especially mentioned that although there is regulation on full rest days, but a lot of employers would set a time for the sisters to return home, and the sisters’ rest day would last for just 8 hours or even less. furthermore, he specially noted that the places where the migrant workers stayed during their rest: many would think they are causing obstructions disturbing the others, but he would thought it actually shows the serious lack of rest and leisure spaces of hong kong. in the urban areas,most of the comfortable indoor spaces have become shopping malls. He does not agree that “only those who make consume are bosses", “It is unreasonable that you could make a claim of “HKWelcomesU" to attract people who come to consume, but give no welcome to migrant workers." Afterall, the labours of children caring and household works should rightfully be acknowledged. moreover, it is clear that the government do have enough resources and spaces with little utilization, e.g. many exhibition venues and the central harbourfront event space (concert venue of an megastar). if such spaces could be put into good use, everybody could relax and enjoy their holiday there, and it would not cause any inconvenience to others.
When asked of whether the local workers should be prioritized to be employed for jobs, if the northeast new territories development project is to be commenced, Shing pointed out that the key to the question is not about local or foreign labours, rather, it is how the policy of the supplementary labour scheme would be effectively implemented. If employment of local workers is to be prioritized, he suggested that a monioring institute should be set up, to make sure the regulations on the recruitment process and the workers’ actual working conditions have been followed. punishment for non-compliance should also be set. Comparing the local workers and the foreign worker, he said there should not be differantial treatment in principle; ensuring equal pay for equal works could discourgae the employers to import large numbers of foreign worker to minimize the cost.
About the way that the Urban Renewal Authority treats the evicted
residents, he criticized it had forgotten about the feelings and
emotions of people. He mentioned that the fixed-pitch hawkers were
considered as family business in the past, and the next generation would have the rights to choose to inherit the business or not; if they choose not to, then the government could take back the licence. He thought that the policy of forced resumption of land views the land as mere property, but not a place to nuture people; but before the system could be changed, the more humane way is to respect the tenants’ decision to move or not, and the development plans should not overwhelm the choice of living of the residents. He had visited some neighbourhoods affected by urban renewal projects in shamshuipo, living alone there for decades, having developed relationships and networks with the neighbourhood (community), it is impossible to remove him.
Although the 4 interviewees looked at various labour issues in different
angles, but the reporter could felt that, the equal say between the
employer and the employee carries immense weight and importance. When we brought up the possibilities of cooperative that replaces the
subordinated position of the employees and by trying to practice
consensus decision making, we cannot refuse to face the competitiveness and distrusts of the workplaces that Winnie illustrated; before we try to resolve the inequality of the employer-employee relationship, should we not strive to remove the boundaries between the casual part-time workers and the permanent worker and treat them in equal terms and as one, just like Shing says?
After packing up the banners and the loudhailers, what we should brought back home should not be just flyers and stickers full of slogans: there were domestic workers of various ethnicities and sex workers in the march… When talking about workers of hong kong, have we forgotten them? We shouted for the enhancement of the labour laws, but just like what our interviewees asked, how could it be realized? all these talks about policies, but how many people, land, feelings and emotions that we care about were forgotten? maybe all these questions should not be thought of just once a year.