New Hong Kong union: ‘’You need to be bold to speak up’’

The founders of a banking trade union set up in Hong Kong to protect workers talk to HRM Asia about why they set up the group up and its future plans.
By: | October 21, 2019

They say there is safety in numbers. That was the thinking behind the founders’ decision to set up the Hong Kong Financial Industry Employees General Union.  

It comes at a time of political unrest in Hong Kong and worries among employees that they will be dismissed if they speak out in support of the ongoing protest movement there. Many have already lost their jobs.

Financial services is a huge sector in Hong Kong. employing more than 230,000 people, according to the 2016 census. Many have signed up to the new trade union since it was formed last month.

The founders admit they are risking their careers, but feels it necessary to have a trade union to represent banking employees who want to speak out. They say they are simply exercising their civil rights under the basic laws of Hong Kong. “People of Hong Kong have the freedom to form and join a trade union, and to strike. You need to be bold to speak up,” a spokesman for the union said. 

But the founders have all been upfront with their employers and told them about the trade union. “We all know that a union and employers can take opposite stances on many controversial topics. You can imagine that no employer welcomes their staff to set up or join the trade union. So, under our code of conduct, the staff have to declare their outside activities such as having an influential role in a trade union.”  

But the Hong Kong Financial Industry Employees General Union is not just a platform for workers to speak out against the political structure of Hong Kong and its relationship to China. “We want to keep running the union to unify the people who are working in the financial sector,” Leung says.  “We hope our voice can make a difference in society. For example, to govern the maximum working hours has been a long-standing topic.”