Monthly Archives: January 2018

New Publication: Resistance and the Continent of Labour

This book provides an insight into how we see the global trajectories of capitalism from a labour perspective in the specific context and setting in Asia. It represents an ongoing effort by labour activists to challenge capital in their particular context. The book discusses a unique perspective on efforts towards the changes of labour relations, with concrete examples of the implementation of different workers’ organizing strategies and initiatives. The book also shows that there are different strategies that workers can implement to change the current situation.

Resistance on the Continent of Labour is about the ‘labour side’ of the story of the rise of Asia as the global factory. Workers in Asia identified strategic points of intervention where they are able to make a small change in order to trigger a broader and more significant change.

The authors of the book are activists and scholars who engaged in counter-hegemonic struggles against the primacy of the market functioning over the well-being of workers and society as a whole. They are directly engaged in advocacy work for social justice based on their locally-grounded experiences. They believe that knowing the situation in other countries is the first step for building international solidarity. The knowledge that the authors of this book presented is significant, but they need to be leveraged in further struggles in the future, to change Asia as the continent of labour to be humane, equal, and just.

Free download:

Resistance on the Continent of Labour


Early 2018 Victory: Cleaning Workers Won Their Struggle

We come to thump at the door
Not to beg you for something
We come to thump at the door
In order to remind you
“Bang, Bang, Bang”
We can move away the rubbish
And also the boss of ‘Man Shun’”

— Hoi Lai Estate cleaning workers’ poem

After 10 days went on strike, the Hoi Lai Estate cleaning workers finally win their fight. Man Shun, the company which employed the workers, agreed to fulfil its obligation for severance pay. With the support of the community and various organizations, the cleaning workers will get HKD 1,200 severance pay for each year they were employed, according to local media InMedia.

The dispute between the workers and the employer began when company’s contract with Hong Kong Housing Department over Cheung Sha Wan’s Hoi Lai Estate ended last year. As the contract ended, the workers were tricked by the company to sign voluntary resignation in October 2017 without any compensation.

Despite long tenures, the company denied the obligation to pay the workers their right to severance pay. Rather, Man Shun offered the workers to be re-employed by Hong Kong Commercial Cleaning—which appears has a close ownership connection—regardless of the previous tenure with only HKD 11 pay rise.

The company denial of workers’ right has made the cleaning workers furious. Refuse to be disrespected, the workers decided to determine their own fate. They went on strike and vowed to continue until they win their right.

Cleaning workers went on strike in front of Hong Kong Housing Authority Headquarters at Ho Man Tin, Kowloon City, Hong Kong on Thursday (04/01)


During the strike on 4 January, the workers alleged that the authority should take responsibility for resolving the problem given the Housing Department has funded the contractor. “Housing authority should take responsibility. We demand the housing authority to come and meet us,” said one of the protesters who declined to be identified.

Most of the dozens cleaning workers who went on strike are old-aged women workers with 7-9 years tenures. One of the interviewed workers said that her monthly salary is only HKD 8,600. “My earning is not sufficient to have a decent living.”

Cleaning workers showing a demand poster for unpaid severance pay in the previous strike (04/01)

Cleaning tasks are often underestimated, although the routines are heavy tasks, especially for the old-aged women workers. Some of the workers’ routines are cleaning the toilet, the floor, and the ceiling. The company provides less working tools, as the workers need to mix the limited cleaning liquid with water or even search for cleaners in the trash bin.

Every single day, the cleaning workers have to collect and dump trash from 400 flats in 40 floors estate. This task has to be finished within working hours. Otherwise, the workers have to do the unpaid overtime.

Another task is handling the large garbage such furniture and home appliances—which is done only by 80 years old workers. The workers also have to manage the bulk trash that vulnerable to accidents.

Such domestic task which is done by the cleaning workers—also domestic workers elsewhere—is one of the major issues under capitalism. Taking care of the households, which construct as the main role of women in the patriarchal biased society, are often underpaid—or rather, unpaid—and regarded as unskilled labor.

This view is problematic given the domestic task serves a critical role in the society: that is the social reproduction of labor. In this sense, the domestic tasks made it possible for the working class to maintain their labor power and to recover from fatigue. Hence, the domestic task is an integral part of the economic development—and also subject to capitalist surplus value appropriation.

The invisibility of the cleaning workers become one of the factors of the wide support. “We should appreciate the cleaning workers. The community will be dirty without being cared by the cleaning workers,” said Lau Siu-Lai, one of the disqualified legislator during her solidarity speech in the celebration of workers’ victory at the Hoi Lai Estate, on Saturday (06/01).

With the workers’ determination and wide support, the company finally gave up. From the initial HKD 200 severance offer—which obviously was refused—the company will pay HKD 1,200 severance for each one year of service. The cleaning workers also will also receive a raise of HKD 172 salary which was initially offered only HKD 11.

Supporters from various local organizations and countries—Poland, Indonesia and Philippine—came to congratulate the workers over the victory. Since in the very beginning, various organization—trade unions, local community, political party, sympathizer, student groups and NGOs—helped the workers to organize the resistance.

Experiencing their own cases, the cleaning workers found themselves empowered. One of the workers delivered her testimony, said that ‘I feel empowered. I am now encouraged to be brave.” The supporters followed with chanting joyfully.

Through their experience, the cleaning workers also learned about the importance of solidarity. ‘I was amazed when I saw many people contributed to the fundraising. Also when I joined New Year’s Day pro-democracy protest, I was touched that many people sympathy on our struggle,” said another worker during her testimony.

Denny To reminded the workers and all of the supporters that there is still a long struggle for the better living condition of working class. “The end of the strike is the start of the movement for the workers who are still being exploited,” said Denny To who is one of the organizers of Cleaning Service Industry Workers Union.


Contributor: Rizal Assalam

Editor: Muh. Ridha


*Credit to Fifi (Chinese University of Hong Kong Grassroots Concern Group), Rena Lau (Globalization Monitor) and Fei (Workers’ News) who provided the valuable information


Workers in Asia are Facing Major Challenges from the Current Neoliberal Development

There are at least two major challenges for workers and the ways of organizing and resistance in the current Asia neoliberal development: the expansion of China Overseas Investment and the shrinking of democracy.

These major challenges were addressed in the Asia Transnational Corporation (ATNC) Monitoring Network ‘Biennial Conference’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 17-21 November 2017. The conference was attended by 45 participants as the delegations from the various organization and individual members of the network.

In the last two years, Outward Direct Investment of China has significantly increased. In 2015, China already became the world’s second-largest source of outbound foreign direct investment (FDI) with infrastructure network project as the prominent sector. In Southeast Asia for example, Chinese investment has grown rapidly from US$ 1bn in 2007 to US$14.6bn in 2015.

This expansion has been accelerated by the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), a major development strategy proposed by President of China Xi Jinping first unveiled in September and October 2013. Under OBOR, the infrastructure projects funded by China capital are designed to connect Asia, Europe and Africa through six economy corridors. In this regard, Pakistan already integrated within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

First plenary session discussed on the current neoliberal development trends in Asia. Credit: Lennon (SPA)

ATNC members discussed the major issue appears within this development framework. As the evidence already emerged in many cases, the expansion of capital in particular funded for infrastructure project will further damaging the environment. This is true since OBOR will continue the extraction of the fossil fuel. At the same time, this continuation will also follow by the forced eviction of local communities.

Delegations from Southeast Asia shared the country report. Credit: Lennon (SPA)

This capital expansion is also coupled with the shrinking of democracy in many countries in Asia. As the delegations from Southeast Asia reported, there is a growing trend of the rise of militarism and right-wing populism. Some of the countries experience this trend are Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Philippine under Duterte become the biggest number of human rights defender killed in Asia (Front Line Defenders Report, 2017). Most of the killing is related to the land dispute which nearly in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business.

While in Cambodia, main opposition party dissolved by Supreme Court only recently. Workers in Cambodia also facing difficulty to organize a resistance and to establish union since the new Trade Union law passed in 2016.

These described major challenges workers facing become the priority to be addressed by the ATNC members in the following years. Within this priority, ATNC members will organize interrelated activity: a research to have a better understanding of the capital expansion in Asia and to identify proper leverage to improve labour working condition, educational activity to equip the members with knowledge to resist, and campaign activity to raise the concerned issue.