The Construction and General Workers Union, an affiliate of BWI in Hong Kong held a protest, following the lockout of 18 carpenters working on the East Kowloon Cultural Centre project by their employer, Leung Pui Form Mould & Engineering Co. Ltd. The lockout was in response to unfair dismissals and unpaid wages by Leung Pui, which is a subcontractor to the Leighton Asia, part of the multinational CIMIC group.
“The behaviour of these subcontractors, which has included assaulting workers on the picket line demanding justice needs to be addressed by Leighton Asia,” said BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “It is clear to us that this lockout has stemmed from an unwillingness to address the substantive issues of workers dismissed without proper justification. This must be solved with constructive dialogue at the bargaining table.”
The workers were told to take a rest in early April during a period when there was a number of public holidays; however, their calls to the employer were never answered when they tried to resume work. They have not been paid the legal seven-day notice payment required when terminating a worker, and their outstanding wages now total around half a million Hong Kong dollars (~US$65,000).
"This case is a perfect example of the weak protection of construction workers’ rights in Hong Kong, a problem made worse by the layers of subcontracting that characterise the employment relationship", said CSGWU Chairman Pat Kan Chan. "Union access remains limited, and Leighton have done little to improve this situation."
The Centre, which will house an auditorium, theatre and a number of studios, was expected to be completed by 2020; yet, emerging issues may cause delay. In the past eighteen months Leighton Asia have already faced severe criticisms over allegations of sub-standard construction work, and similar issues are beginning to emerge on the Cultural Centre site.
The CIMIC Group’s largest shareholder is German construction company Hochtief, which has signed an International Framework Agreement with BWI.