PLC Paper No. CB(1)20/97-98
(These minutes have been seen by the
Administration and cleared with the Chairman)
Ref : CB1/BC/12/96

Bills Committee on Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 1997

Minutes of Meeting held on
Monday, 2 June 1997, at 8:30 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka (Chairman)
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members absent :

    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Public officers attending :

Ms Esther LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for
Education and Manpower
Mr TSANG Kin-woo
Assistant Commissioner for Labour

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance :

Senior Assistant Legal Adviser
Ms Karen WONG
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)9

I Meeting with the Administration

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1729/96-97(01) and (02))

Deliberations of the Labour Advisory Board (LAB)

2. At the Chairman’s invitation, the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC for L) informed members that at the meeting of the LAB on 28 May 1997, employer representatives did not support the Bill and further amendments proposed by Mr LEE Cheuk-yan while employee representatives had reservations on certain provisions. Both parties considered that more time would be required to examine the Bill. He also clarified that since the LAB had not examined the Bill clause by clause, there was no clear indication from members in support of specific provisions of the Bill or otherwise. However, members were very concerned about the proposed use of union funds for political purposes.

3. At the request of the Chairman, AC for L undertook to provide a summary of the LAB’s deliberations for members’ reference. He also remarked that the Commissioner for Labour would report the issues discussed at the said meeting to the Manpower Panel.

(Post-meeting note: The summary of LAB’s deliberations was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1795/96-97 dated 6 June 1997)

The Administration’s position

4. In presenting the Administration’s stance, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS(EM)) stressed that the Administration did not support the Bill and Mr LEE’s further amendments because the Bill was not conducive to the healthy development of trade union movement in Hong Kong. The Administration was firmly against the removal of the Governor’s approval for affiliation with or making donations to overseas unions or organizations as this might result in undue influence or control of local unions by overseas political bodies. The Administration also considered that the formation of federations with widely diversified interests and trades bonded together only for political purposes would be inconsistent with the primary role of trade unions. Nevertheless, she confirmed that the Administration would consider the issues raised in the Bill in the context of the next review of the Trade Unions Ordinance (TUO). In reply to the Chairman, AC for L said that a specific timetable for the review had not yet been fixed.

Briefing by Mr LEE Cheuk-yan on proposed Committee stage amendments (CSAs)

5. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan briefed the meeting on the proposed CSAs and highlighted their objectives. As the existing clause 3 of the Bill proposed to repeal section 17(2) of the TUO, this might have the effect of allowing persons who were not ordinarily resident in Hong Kong to become trade union officers. In order to remove this unintended anomaly, Mr LEE would propose further amendments to retain the existing requirement of ordinary residency for union officers.

6. Other proposed CSAs sought to amend clauses 2, 5, 6, 11 and 12 of the Bill so as to retain the existing section 33A on "electoral fund" and to amend section 33(1)(l) of the TUO to provide that union funds might be expended for any purposes as approved by secret ballot of the majority voting members. As such, a trade union would have full autonomy in deciding its use of funds, for political or other purposes.

7. Senior Assistant Legal Adviser (SALA) advised that apart from some textual amendments, the proposed CSAs were basically in order. He would follow up with Mr LEE Cheuk-yan.

8. For background information, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan told the meeting that legislation governing trade unions was first introduced in 1927 with a view to prohibiting the affiliation of local unions with unions of Mainland China. With the passage of time, some of the provisions had become obsolete and amendments should be introduced to keep pace with changes in society. In response, AC for L clarified that the Trade Unions Ordinance had been amended from time to time since its enactment. At the Chairman’s request, Mr LEE undertook to provide an extract of the Hansard in respect of the First Reading and Second Reading debate of the Trade Unions Bill at the Legislative Council meetings on 30 June and 7 July 1927 for members’ reference.

(Post-meeting note: An extract of the Hansard of the Legislative Council meetings on 30 June and 7 July 1927 was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1769/96-97 dated 2 June 1997)

Members’ views

9. Members did not hold common view on the Bill. Mr Howard YOUNG, on behalf of the Liberal Party, said that his Party would not support the Bill because there was no clear consensus at the LAB in support of the Bill. Nevertheless, he would not oppose to the proposed relaxation of the age requirement for trade union executives.

10. Mr CHENG Yiu-tong, reiterated his objection to the proposed use of union funds for political purposes and abolition of the Governor’s approval for overseas affiliations. He supported the formation of cross-industry trade union federations and had no strong view on proposed amendments on the age requirement for trade union executives and the procedures for changing a union’s name.

11. The Chairman, on behalf of the Democratic Party, said that his Party was inclined to support the Bill.

12. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan confirmed that he would give notice to resume Second Reading debate of the Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 1997 at the LegCo sitting on 23 June 1997. Members noted that the deliberations of the Bills Committee would be reported to the House Committee on 13 June 1997.

13. The meeting ended at 9:50 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
11 July 1997

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