Hong Kong bankers to join rally over extradition bill

Hong Kong bankers to join rally over extradition bill

HONG KONG: Hundreds of workers at 34 banks joined calls for a citywide strike next week against the government’s handling of recent unrest which has rocked Hong Kong.

The finance staff added their voices to an umbrella group of 95 unions from the public and private sectors behind the action planned for Monday.

The appeal from the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) and staff from local banks, including international investment banks and Chinese state-owned banks, was also echoed by teachers and art groups.

Civil servants, meanwhile, got the go-ahead from police to host an unprecedented rally on Friday evening in Chater Garden to urge the government to respond to the demands of protesters against the now-abandoned extradition bill.

The idea of a strike was first floated weeks ago on an online forum, and has gained momentum after two protests that descended into clashes over which 44 people have been charged with rioting.

“To really allow the city to settle down, the government should establish an inquiry, which is not just about the police’s handing of protests, but the entire policymaking and decision-making process,” CTU chairwoman Carol Ng Man-yee said.

“We hope all working staff will take part, and join one of the seven rallies over the city.”

She was referring to the parallel rallies proposed online for Monday in Admiralty, Mong Kok, Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Wong Tai Sin and Tuen Mun.

 It was unclear whether there was any organiser behind the plan, or whether anyone had applied for permission from police.

Ng did not estimate how many unions would take part, noting some were still discussing the idea.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, a major union with 100,000 members, was likely to join the strike, the Post has learned. The Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation also supported the cause in principle.

The controversy surrounding the extradition legislation, and the subsequent police response to protests against it, is showing no sign of dying down, while more sectors have joined calls for its complete withdrawal and an independent inquiry into the debacle.

Nearly 400 employees at 34 financial institutions launched an anonymous petition to support the Monday strike, as well as scheduling a brief protest in Chater Garden for Thursday evening.

“We urge the government to respond to the key demands from the public, and stop the market turbulence,” read a post on popular forum LIHKG.

Staff from HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and UBS were among those who backed the call, some posting pictures of their staff cards, with their names covered.

Five workers from the state-owned Citic Bank posted a message which read: “Useless government ignores the people’s will. All Hongkongers let’s go on strike on August 5.”

One of the petition organisers said the saga had already taken a toll on the finance industry, with some private banking clients already shifting assets to neighbouring economies, such as Singapore and Taiwan.

“I am never a political person, but the government’s way of handling the situation has only triggered more opposition,” one HSBC veteran, known as CH, said. “If this carries on, we will see investors and our talents leaving this city.”

While industrial action is legally protected, employment lawyer Michael Szeto of law firm ONC Lawyers warned political protest or pursuing personal ideals were not legitimate reasons for industrial action and so not protected.

He said taking a day off without good reason could “attract the risk of disciplinary action”, although it was unlikely to trigger a summary dismissal.

Chan Chiu-wai, the head of the CTU’s civil service team, said civil servants from various departments would consider taking a day off to join the rally.

“They are aware that the law does not provide sufficient protection. That’s why there’s understandably some concern from colleagues,” he said.

South China Morning Post

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