Social organizations’ proposal to establish “Workers’ Memorial Day” instead of “Day for Safety & Health at Work“ Students come to support the ARVIA campaign According to statistics of Hong Kong Labour Department, problems of industrial injuries are …

Jennifer Zhang Asia, China, Hong Kong,

Social organizations’ proposal to establish “Workers’ Memorial Day” instead of “Day for Safety & Health at Work“

Students come to support the ARVIA campaign

Students come to support the ARVIA campaign

According to statistics of Hong Kong Labour Department, problems of industrial injuries are severe. 40,000 Industrial Accidents happened and caused 196 deaths last year. For the time being, loopholes in the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance, make it easy for employers to escape from responsibility. Hong Kong Labour Department also doesn’t face the reality so that they, intentionally or unintentionally, shirk responsibility of publicity and shift the blame onto workers. Most of advertising campaigns call for workers to pay more attention to their safety. What the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims advocates is that ” Workers’ Memorial Day” should be renamed to “Day for Safety & Health at Work“in order to show more respect to the victims of industrial accidents.

The cover-up of occupational accidents

In Hong Kong, quite a few Industrial accidents can be found every day. In January this year, Mr.Qu, working as a security guard, was bitten by a dog on his left leg when he was patrolling the mansion. He found that his employer didn’t submit the report of his work-related injury to relevant parties. It led to the situation that no one could pay for the medical fees related to his industrial accident and he couldn’t get 4 in 5 of his salary prescribed by law. Under this circumstance, Mr.Qu could only borrow money from relatives and friends to meet the needs of daily expenses. He still couldn’t walk. He had no choices but to get his 80-year-old father home in the countryside, which enabled him not to fulfill his duty of a son to take good care of his parents.

What made him even more angry was that when he presented his situation to Hong Kong Labour Department, he was required to apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance(CSSA).

“I feel so bad”, he said to a reporter of independent media,” I even find that Hong Kong Labour Department didn’t help us and worse than that, they stand by employers and ignore our interests and rights’

This was just one of the recent concealed industrial accidents that employees complained about employers. The statistics of Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims shows that ever since this year, they have received 2-3 complaints by workers per month, many of which involved large-sized or government projects. We suspected that to avoid the negative impact of documented work accidents on project biddings and its security rating, builders had intentionally concealed the fact. Lots of deceptive incidents reports are concerning about south Asian workers. Without legal advice and assistance, they were bullied due to language barrier.

Yesterday was the press conference centering around ”workers are under stress because of the severe cover-up of occupational accidents “.Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims listed employers’ various tricks to hide industrial injuries. For instance,they can cross the sea under camouflage — to practice deception, combine threats with inducements and delay the report of the accident.

Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims expressed the view that growing seriousness of the cover-up of occupational accidents originated in the increasing significance of security rating index. It even plays an important role in bidding tasks and premium as well as cooperation between companies. However, Hong Kong Labour Department hasn’t fully implemented the law and given employers the opportunity to deny industrial injuries, which brought about serious damage to injured workers and their family. Incompetence of Hong Kong Labour Department added burden to legal aid and CSSA and transferred the insurance liabilities to the taxpayers.

Low cost of illegal acts

In addition, Chen Jingkang, director-general of Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims indicated that the main reason for growing number of concealed industrial accidents was the low cost of employers’ illegal acts. Therefore, Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims would take the legal route through the courts to strengthen the inspection and control of employers’ behavior so that injured workers could protect their rights and interests. They helped Mr.Qu via legal actions. A staff in the organization said it would take almost 2 years or more to finish judicial proceedings.

Workers’ commemorative activities: appealing to improve legal system and set up a date for Workers’ Memorial Day and erect The Monument for the Victims of Occupational Injuries Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims held Workers’ Memorial activities .Topics are as follows: we should identify 28th April as Workers’ Memorial Day and build The Monument for the Victims of Occupational Injuries .And we are supposed to promote self-inspection and self-examination while dealing with employees’ compensation and give some advice.

Chen Jingkang told us that International Workers’ Memorial Day as scheduled on 28th April was designed to convey ratification to the dead and injured workers. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government just set 28th April as Day for Safety & Health at Work.” I don’t think it’s serious enough to show our support to them. So we’ll continue to struggle for the legalization of Workers’ Memorial Day”, he said.

As for The Monument for the Victims of Occupational Injuries to express our worship of the injured and dead in industrial accidents, Chen Jingkang noted that Hong Kong Science Museum used the excuse of existed plaques to refuse our call to build The Monument for the Victims of Occupational Injuries. At the same time, they thought there was no need to build a new monument .The attitude of our government could be regarded as lack of sincerity and it was not conducive to showing our respect.

In June 2013, the occupational security and healthy section of Hong Kong Labour Department released that in 2012, occupational injuries cases were totaling 40,000.And the number of dead workers amounted to 196. Whereas, construction sector stood in the first place. When compared with date in 2011, 3106 industrial accidents with 24 deaths was an increase.

Call to incorporate commute time under the protection system

In terms of legislation amendments, chairman of the labor union in Reinforcement Fixing mentioned that on their way home from workplace or reversely, 5 workers died in a traffic accident. It was just because Employees’ Compensation Ordinance didn’t stipulate that situation would be incorporated under its protection system. So 5 families didn’t get any compensation.

That’s why he continues to ask for the expansion of workers’ protection including diverse accidents. Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims held a signature campaign to remind all present here of giving support to our call.

Moreover, it has been uninterrupted for undergoing labour legislation in HK since 1970s and 1980s.It can’t keep up with changes in labor market and adjustments. As a result, legislation amendments are urgent and necessary.

Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims has further proposed the necessity of making long-term policies for occupational security,. Firstly, employees’ central compensation fund should be financed by the Hong Kong government. Secondly, for the same reason, we should provide more financial support for workers diagnosed with long-term occupational diseases .What’s more, owning to great job mobility, workers can’t affirm the employer of any short-period job. So they can’t get medical treatment and compensation.

This is a translation of the original Chinese article. Translation is done by USi volunteer Milo Gong.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Jennifer Zhang

Jennifer Zhang is USi’s China coordinator based in Hong Kong.

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