LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1850/96-97
(These minutes had been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/12/96
Bills Committee on Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 1997
Minutes of Meeting held on Monday, 19 May 1997, at 10:30 a.m. in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JPPublic officers attending:
Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
- Ms Esther LEUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for
- Education and Manpower
- Mr TSANG Kin-woo
- Assistant Commissioner for Labour
Attendance by Invitation:
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
- Dr Y S CHEUNG
- Assistant Director
- Industrial & Corporate Affairs
Employers Federation of Hong Kong
- Ms May CHOW
- Executive Director
Federation of Hong Kong Industries
- Mrs Vicky Davies
- Mr Roger TAM
- Administrative Officer
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
- Mr MUNG Siu-tat
- Executive Secretary
- Mr MAK Tak-ching
- Executive Secretary
The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions
- Ms NG Wai-yee
- Educational and Promotional Director
- Mr CHAU Siu-chung
Clerk in attendance :
- Miss Polly YEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
Staff in attendance :
- Ms Karen WONG
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)9
- Mr Y S LEE
- Senior Assistant Legal Adviser
I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LegCo Paper No.CB(1)1550/96-97)
The minutes of the meeting held on 7 May 1997 were confirmed without amendment.
II.Briefing by Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1444/96-97, CB(1)1530/96-97 and information paper tabled at the meeting and subsequently circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1572/96-97(01))
2. At the Chairmans invitation, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan introduced salient provisions of his Bill and highlighted the differences between the existing legislation and the proposed amendments, as well as the relevant rulings of the Freedom of Association Committee of the International Labour Organization.
3. At the request of members, Mr LEE undertook to provide further information on the application/implementation of the rulings in overseas countries for members reference.
||Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
4. Members also expressed concerns on the definition of "officer" under the existing Trade Unions Ordinance (TUO). The Chairman advised that this point would be dealt with later and Senior Assistant Legal Adviser (SALA) was requested to look into the provisions.
III.Meeting with deputations
5. The Chairman welcomed representatives of the deputations and the Administration to the meeting and invited the deputations to present their veiws on the Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 1997.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1573/96-97(03))
6. In presenting the views of HKGCC on the Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 1997, Dr Y S CHEUNG stressed the importance of tripartite consensus as the Bill would affect not only employees but also employers. He said that the Bill should first be referred to the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) for deliberation.
7. In explaining the HKGCCs objection to the proposed amendments which permitted the setting up of a political fund and membership of overseas trade unions, Dr CHEUNG pointed out that a trade union was different from a political group and the use of political funds would be undesirable and contrary to the proper role of a trade union. The Chamber also considered that the unregulated affiliation with overseas organizations and international unions would lead to the politicisation and internationalization of trade unions.
8. While agreeing that the definition of "officers" under the existing TUO needed clarification, Dr CHEUNG was of the view that executives of trade unions or federations of trade unions should belong to the same trade with which the union was directly concerned. The Chamber had no objection to lowering the age requirement for trade union executives in response to social changes.
9. In reply to members question on how far the HKGCC could accept the use of union funds for political purposes, Dr CHEUNG referred to the non-political nature of the HKGCC and confirmed that the Chamber would not provide financial support for election candidates.
Employers Federation of Hong Kong (EFHK)
10. Ms May CHOW informed the meeting that the EFHK was opposed to the Bill and gave the following views:
- existing provisions of the TUO on "electoral fund" were already very liberal. The proposal of setting up a political fund was not compatible with the role of a trade union;
- the affiliation with international organizations without the Governors approval would have the adverse effect of local unions calling for strike for the purpose of supporting the industrial actions taken by affiliated organizations overseas;
- officers of a federation of trade unions should be engaged in the same trade of the unions in order to promote the interests of the workers in the trade; and
- the proposed amendments should first be considered by the LAB.
11. In response to Mr LEUNG Yiu-chungs question about the interpretation of the expression "workers interests", Ms CHOW said that the EFHK was not in a position to define the expression as many other factors had to be considered. In reply to some members question on whether the EFHK had any regulation on the use of funds for political purposes, Ms CHOW said that it might not be possible to give a definite answer in the absence of a clear definition of the term "political purposes".
Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1615/96-97)
12. Mr Roger TAM stressed that the existing legislation had already provided a reasonable legal framework for the operation of trade unions in Hong Kong. He highlighted the FHKIs position as follows:
- the setting up of a political fund was inappropriate and considered to be outside the ambits of a trade union;
- the requirement for the Governors prior approval for affiliation with overseas organizations should be retained in order to keep local trade unions independent from the control and undue influence of overseas political organizations; and
- the existing restriction on the requirements for trade union officers should be retained in order to prevent local or overseas political organizations from taking control of a trade union.
13. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan asked whether the Federation had used its funds for political activities such as putting up advertisements on its political stance. Mrs Davies, in reply, said that the FHKI could not address the question unless it could be confirmed that the type of advertisements mentioned by Mr LEE was to be categorised as a form of political activity.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)
(Written submission tabled at the meeting and circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1572/96-97(04))
14. Mr MAK Tak-ching of HKCTU expressed support for the Bill as it sought to remove restrictions on trade unions which had become obsolete and unreasonable, thus ensuring that workers right of association could be implemented. He and Mr MUNG Siu-tat presented the following views of the confederation:
- the requirement for trade unions to obtain the Governors approval for making contributions and donations to overseas organizations should be repealed as such contributions or donations symbolised international solidarity and must not be restricted by the Government;
- the similar requirement for affiliation with trade unions outside Hong Kong should also be repealed as the freedom of association should be exercised at the international level following the rapid growth of multi-national companies;
- the setting up of a political fund was appropriate because very often, workers interests could only be pursued through political means. Trade unions should be given the autonomy to decide on the use of funds in furtherance of members interests; and
- the prohibition on the formation of a federation with members of different trades should be repealed as workers right to join or form federations of trade unions is an internationally recognized basic right.
15. Mr Howard YOUNG enquired about the relationship between the growth in multi-national companies and trade union movement on the international level. For the purpose of clarification, Mr MUNG gave the example of a trade dispute which affected the production of the local branch of a multi-national company. As the employer might turn to its overseas branches for production assistance, local workers could strenghten their bargaining power if they could secure support from their overseas co-workers for their industrial action.
The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions (FHKKLU)
(Written submission tabled at the meeting and circulated vide LegCo Paper No.CB(1)1572/96-97(03))
16. Ms NG Wai-yee confirmed the Federations support in principle for the Bill. The FHKKLU considered it appropriate to repeal the requirement of obtaining the Governors approval for local trade unions to become members of overseas trade unions. They also supported the establishment of federations of trade unions with members from different trades. Ms NG pointed out that these amendments were beneficial to the development of trade unions in Hong Kong and in line with the spirit of the the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
17. Mr CHAU Siu-chung supplemented that the FHKKLU was in support of the proposal to relax restrictions on the age and occupational requirements to become a trade union officer, as well as the proposal to remove the requirement of obtaining the Governors prior approval for making contributions or donations to overseas organizations.
18. On the proposed political fund, Ms NG clarified that the Federation would object to unions making contributions to political parties or organizations. On the question of financial support for specific activities which might be political in nature, Ms NG advised that the FHKKLU would have to decide by majority on the merits of each case.
19. As regards members question on whether trade unions could accept contributions or donations from local political parties, Mr CHAU replied that the Federation had not taken a position on this issue.
The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU)
20. Noting that there was no submission from the FTU, the Chairman asked whether Mr CHENG Yiu-tong and Ms CHAN Yuen-han would like to present views on behalf of the FTU. In response, Mr CHENG and Ms CHAN said that the FTU did not have strong views on the proposed amendments relating to the age requirement of members of the executive and to the change of union name. They also confirmed the FTUs support for the proposal to permit the formation of federations of trade unions for different trades. Nevertheless, the FTU was against the proposals to set up a political fund and to remove the requirement for the Governors approval for membership of overseas trade unions. The FTU was also of the view that officers of a registered trade union should be engaged in the trade with which the union was directly concerned.
21. Ms CHAN Yuen-han considered it inappropriate to set up a political fund, bearing in mind that very few trade unions had in fact made use of the existing section 33A of the TUO to amend their constitutions to establish an electoral fund.
22. Mr CHENG Yiu-tong was concerned that persons who were not or had not been engaged in the trade for which the union was directly concerned might not understand the special circumstances or problems of the trade concerned. Besides, he also expressed doubts about the proposed deletion of section 17(2) which might enable persons who were not ordinary residents of Hong Kong to become trade union officers. In reply to his enquiry, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan confirmed that the Bill would not seek to remove the requirement of ordinary residency in Hong Kong for trade union officers.
IV.Meeting with the Administration
(LegCo Paper No.CB(1)1573/96-97(01) and information paper tabled at the meeting and subsequently circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1572/96-97(02))
23. In response to the Chairman, the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC for L) clarified that although present provisions of the TUO permitted the establishment of an electoral fund, the funds of a registered trade union could not be used either directly or indirectly for any political purposes.
24. Referring to the Administrations views on the Bill as outlined in its paper, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS(EM)) informed members that the Administration would present its position further after the LAB had considered the Bill on 28 May 1997.
25. Summing up the discussion, the Chairman identified the following major issues for further discussion at the next meeting:
- eligibility of union executives;
- eligibility of union officers;
- age requirement of union officers or executives;
- change of the unions name;
- affiliation with and making donations to overseas organizations;
- use of union funds; and
- formation of federations of trade unions with member unions from different trades.
26. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan informed the meeting that he would propose further amendments to provisions in section 33A to widen the use of union funds for other purposes. He would provide the information for members reference.
||Hon LEE |
VI.Any other business
27. Members noted that the next meeting would be held on 2 June 1997 at 8:30 am.
28. The meeting ended at 12:35 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
12 June 1997
Last Updated on 23 Jun, 1997