Hong Kong rail workers sit-in over unpaid wages

31 May 2016 07:33

A group of over one hundred rail workers in Hong Kong held a sit-in strike on Monday to protest the failure of their employer to pay HKD$7 million wages (~USD$900,000) owed to them over a month and a half period. Assisted by BWI affiliate the Construction Site Workers’ General Union, negotiations took place between workers, the lead contractor (a Gammon-Leighton joint venture) and the subcontractor (Temmex Engineering). The workers now will be paid in full on Thursday. 

The construction site is a publicly-funded high-speed rail link in West Kowloon, a project. Their employer claimed that they were unable to pay the workers because they themselves hadn’t been paid by the lead contractor. Hong Kong law states that when the workers have not been paid the lead contractor is under a legal obligation to pay those wages in arrears. 

CSWGU officials noted a number of other issues affecting the workers on this site, including poor ventilation throughout the tunnel. They estimated that on average wages were around 10% lower than industry norms, and that a year prior they effectively had their wages cut, when their lunch breaks became unpaid. 

Construction on the tunnel is currently expected to continue until 2019, however it has already been subject to significant controversy. In 2010 the project’s budget was initially set at HKD$67 billion (USD$8.6 billion), however in March 2016 a further HKD$10 billion (US$1.3 billion) in funding was approved to cover budgetary shortfalls; however even this increase has been insufficient to ensure the workers are paid properly.