Date
25 May 2017
Picture inset shows 14 workers carrying a single steel bar at a construction site. Rather than import more foreign workers, Hong Kong should put existing resources to better use, says a labor leader. Photos: Apple Daily, HKEJ
Picture inset shows 14 workers carrying a single steel bar at a construction site. Rather than import more foreign workers, Hong Kong should put existing resources to better use, says a labor leader. Photos: Apple Daily, HKEJ

Govt faces flak for seeking new foreign workers for big projects

A labor union leader has lashed out at the government’s plan to import more foreign workers for ongoing construction projects, saying the move is unnecessary.

Project delays have stemmed from lack of proper planning by authorities, and not due to worker shortage, Chan Pat-kan, chairman of the Construction Site Workers General Union, said Wednesday.

Dismissing the labor shortage excuse trotted out by the government, Chan told a LegCo manpower panel that authorities are seeking more foreign workers as projects such as cross-border high-speed rail and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge have fallen behind schedule.

Rather than putting the existing manpower to better use, the government is acting in a knee-jerk fashion, he said.

To support his argument, Chan displayed a high-speed rail project photo which showed 14 workers carrying a single steel bar.

It is an example of waste of available manpower, the union leader said, calling for improved utilization of existing resources.

In his annual policy address in January, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, said it is imperative for the city to import foreign workers to meet demand.

Following the comments, contractors of the cross-sea bridge project sought permission to import 575 foreign workers.

That has fueled worries among some local groups. 

Wong Wai-man, director of the Bar Bending Solidarity Union, said it is unfair to blame the delays in construction projects on labor shortage.

However, there have also been different opinions in the industry.

Allan Chan, president of the Hong Kong Construction Association, has pointed out that one in four local construction workers is now over 50 years in age, prompting the need for a pro-active policy on foreign workers.

In related news, hk01.com has reported that authorities have lifted a controversial condition set on local workers who apply for jobs in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project.

The decision came after the Labour Department, which will begin a local hiring process Friday for the bridge project, said earlier that applicants who can communicate in Putonghua will be given priority consideration.

The restriction was lifted after feedback from related departments and work contractors, the Development Bureau was quoted as saying Wednesday.

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TL/AC/RC

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