Tower Crane Operator Network: Solidarity Call from Up in the Air

19 August 2017 00:59

Bringing together tower crane operators and construction unions from Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea, the BWI Asia Pacific Region launched a tower crane operators network on August 15, 2017.

“I am so proud to be part of this inspiring network. We learned a lot from the experience of our KFCITU comrades’ persistence and long history of union struggle to ensure the protection of rights of crane tower operators. We will organize more tower crane operators in Malaysia,” said Alias, President of Union of Construction Employees Industry (UECI) of Malaysia.

With the soaring of mega infrastructure projects in the Asia and Pacific region, tower crane operators have emerged as a strategic trade in the construction sector. However, the precarious employment model of subcontracting is one of the major issues that have put these workers in a vulnerable position.

The tower crane operators are also at high risk to occupational accidents due to flawed safety compliance at the construction site for tower crane operators. Extreme weather conditions during the hot summer and typhoon season has claimed lives of many tower crane operators in Hong Kong and South Korea. Pushing to meet construction deadlines and trying to cut costs, many construction companies are opting to use sub-standard and often obsolete models of tower cranes that further jeopardize the safety of the tower crane operators.

“The role of union is very important in ensuring employment security without compromising safety and working standards,” said Kim Kyung Shin, Vice President of KFCITU whose union has gone through a 20-year struggle to organize more than 2,000 tower crane operators in South Korea. Nation-wide industrial agreement for decent work underpinned with strong union membership activism was the key strategy discussed in the network meeting.  

Developing and implementing organizing strategies targeting tower crane operators was a key part of the discussions amongst the participants.  The Construction General Worker Union (CSWGU) of Hong Kong committed to further strengthen its organizing strategy to outreach to the 615 tower crane operators in Hong Kong.

The network will be further expanded and diversified addressing major issues in the trade such as long working hours, precarious employment, lack of safety standard and future automaton of the construction industry.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson reiterated the strategic value of this network, serving as a platform for the global network. In his closing remarks, he mentioned, “By launching this network, the BWI continues its agenda of building strategic trades in the construction sector.

He continued, “While keeping abreast of the changes and transformation in our industry, we also need to be innovative and upscale our organizing strategies.  One of this in organizing tower crane operators who high up in the air are visible and strong.  The operators who spend more than 10 hours up in the air to build our cities and communities are the back-bone of all back-bone of all mega-construction projects.”