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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


Unite and fight against the neoliberal attacks on labour!


A solidarity statement by
the Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

on the International Labour Day Celebrations
May 1, 2016


Under the globally pervasive neoliberal economic development regime, the Asian economies have become completely integrated and subsumed into global capitalism. Big Asian and global transnational corporations (TNCs) have built economic power by consolidating their regional and global production networks. On the other hand, developing countries in Asia opened up their economies to become eager hosts of TNC-driven and export-oriented industrial factories and corporate agricultural plantations. The governments of developing Asian states believe that economic growth can spring from foreign direct investment-friendly economic policies, which are often anti-people policies. ‘Let us wait for the growth to trickle down,’ they would say.

Hence, on the grounds of the “economically surging Asia” are the precarious workers who are assiduously toiling, suffering, and are being sacrificed upon the altar of neoliberalism. We observed that most Asian governments have been adopting labour law and economic reforms that not only bolster the neoliberal agenda but also curtail the rights of the workers and restrict the democratic space for workers’ organising and collective bargaining.

Asia’s race-to-the-bottom wages

In order to attract foreign investments, Asian governments are competing against each other in a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards. They implemented policies that directly cut wages, removed regulations on wage settings, and introduced flexible wage schemes. In the Philippines, a two-tiered wage system was advanced by the government in one region – the first tier is the floor wage based on the poverty threshold (USD 1/day) and the second tier is based on productivity. It resulted in reduced wages as the floor wage was 25 percent lower than the minimum wage while the payment of the productivity-based wage is not mandatory.

On the other hand, the Indonesian government issued a new wage regulation in October 2015 that changed the minimum wage-fixing mechanism. In the past, the minimum wage was set through a process of bargaining between the employers’ group and trade union, somehow taking into account the cost of living. In the new wage regulation, the minimum wage will be unilaterally determined by the government based on a formula that considers the inflation and the GDP growth. Worse, the adjustments will be made only every five years.

Legitimising the attacks on the right to organise

Asian governments also use the laws to suppress trade union activities. In Cambodia, for instance, the National Assembly passed the Trade Union Law on 4 April 2016, restricting the workers’ rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and strike. Championed by the industrial capitalists, the enactment of the new law is defended by the Ministry of Labour, declaring that it will aid in attracting more investments. In China, the Foreign NGO Activities Law was already submitted to the National People’s Congress for enactment. It limits the activities of foreign NGOs in China, including those that support the building of an independent labour movement at the grassroots level.

It is relevant to note, however, that even before these laws are passed, the space for independent labour movements’ activities have been restricted. We have witnessed the violent crackdowns of strikes in Cambodia in the past years and the arrests of numerous labour activists in China in December of last year, two of whom are still in detention. Needless to say, the recent laws are being pushed to legitimise harassment, violent actions, and criminalisation of labour activists.

Violent crackdowns on the working poor’s protests

Even in countries where the policies are supposed to protect working people’s rights, the reality shows a precarious face. In Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, landless farmers protesting for land rights on 29 March 2016 faced violent repression. Sixty-four protesters were arrested while 14 were injured after being shot by the police. Two days later, on 1 April 2016, hungry farmers in Kidapawan, Philippines suffered the same but more brutal fate. Demanding for rice, the protesting farmers got bullets instead. Three died while 76 were arrested, including elderly and pregnant women. While the marginalised people face injustices and harassment, agricultural TNCs in these two countries are enjoying not only incentives for investments but also protection from the military.

Reversing the gains from past struggles

Moreover, the victories from the struggles of labour and other social movements have been reversed. In South Asia, particularly, labour law reforms are going backwards. In the past year, the reforms that are being proposed in India aim to flexibilise labour arrangements by making hiring and firing easier and by excluding the majority of the workers from the purview of the law. Sri Lanka, which has one of the best severance benefits, is considering reducing the benefits at the request of the employers. Meanwhile, in response to the increasing number of trade unions registered since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Bangladesh government issued new Labour Rules in September 2015 to regulate union registration more strictly.

We, at the ATNC Monitoring Network, are alarmed at these trends and developments in Asia that are obviously aimed at further reinforcing the neoliberal agenda, eroding the workers’ rights, and dismantling the labour movement. We believe that genuine economic development should prioritise the interest and welfare of the poor and the marginalised and not of the global TNCs and wealthy elites. Thus, we strongly condemn the naked and violent attacks on labour activists and innocent working people who demand for a life of dignity.

Today, on International Labour Day, we register the following calls:

  • Stop the neoliberal attacks on labour!
  • Respect the workers’ rights to organise, bargain collectively, and strike!
  • Eliminate flexible labour arrangements that make workers more vulnerable!
  • Fight for living wage for Asian workers!
  • Justice for victims of harassment, criminalisation, and human rights violations!
  • Uphold the working people’s dignity!

We stand in solidarity with the working people of Asia who persistently fight for their rights and tirelessly build an independent and democratic labour movement in the region.

Indonesia’s Oldest EPZ disrupted by General Strike

On 24 and 25 Nov 2015, workers assembled during General Strike at Nusantara Bonded Zone, in Cakung, East Jakarta, Indonesia. The strike has disrupted the operation of the zone, known as one of the workplaces that are most exploitative with slave-like working condition. 

Nusantara Bonded Zone, established in 1986, is the oldest Indonesia’s Export Processing Zone (EPZ). EPZs, historically often labelled Free Trade Zones (FTZs), and more recently, Special Economic Zones (SEZs), have been and continue to be one of the most striking phenomena in the global capitalist system.


‪#‎GeneralStrike‬ in Indonesia [24-27 Nov 2015]

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

Police attacked peaceful protest – the second day of General Strike in Indonesia


The second day of #GeneralStrike in Indonesia (25 Nov 2015)

Five union leaders have been arrested in Bekasi Industrial Estates, West Java. These are the five union leaders:

1. Nurdin Muhidin (labour actvists and member of local parliament)

2. Ruhiyat (NAMICOH plant level union)

3. Udin Wahyudin (HIKARI plant level union)

4. Amo Sutarmo (EPINDO plant level union)

5. Adika Yadi (NGK plant level union)

In other area in Bekasi, a Korean company has hired tens of thugs to attack the protesters.

In this picture, labour activis who also local parliament members, Nurdin Muhidin, was arrested by the police.

Asian TNC Monitoring Network strongly condemn the repression and violence.

Long live #InternationalSolidarity

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See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

Support General Strike in Indonesia

Dear All

Indonesian workers and unions request our solidarity and support in demanding the government to revoke the wage regulation No.78/2015. This new wage regulation restricts the wage increase and workers participation in its decision making process. Thousands of workers have been on strikes in many cities. There are also calls for general strikes.

In response to the situation, Asian TNCs Monitoring Network extends its support and solidarity to the struggle of workers and unions in Indonesia.

In solidarity and struggle (ATNC Monitoring Network)

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

An Arrest during Protest Rally against Wage Regulation in Indonesia: A Chronology (October 30, 2015)

You! Get down! All of you get down from the car! Are you going to get down or not? You are dogs!” shouted several of the police around the FBTPI commando car while continuing to use the bamboo sticks. I looked at them. They were wearing brown shirts with brown pants. That was the first time I had seen that uniform. Then I saw Fresly Manulang wounded, blood flowing from his forehead. I braced myself and glanced towards the front seat of the Commando car. Jumisih was not there. I saw police hanging on to the commando car while kicking in the glass on the left side of the car. I remembered Galita who had been sitting in the passenger seat. I wondered if the little girl Aini was with her mother, Galita, there? Finally we decided to get off the commando car, the police were pulling us down. They punched Asmir’s right eye and hauled him down. Manulang was also punched on the head and dragged down. I was pulled down off the car but they did not punch me because I am a woman. Ironic isn’t it? I looked around again, there was no Jumisih, and what about Ari Widiastari, was he safe with his camera? What about Atin with her camera? How about the other comrades? Bamboo. FBLP, Godam, LPB, FSPMI, Forum PUK, SPSI, SPN and the others. I hold my bag tightly, handphone inside, so as not to allow it to be taken by the police.

More detail:

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