Hong Kong migrant workers advance their struggle as the leadership splits

"Solidarity of the migrant workers of Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka demonstrated with PTUDC. Hong Kong Unions join the fray. Call for a party of labour wings support - notion to be sent to the labour movement of Hong Kong and Macao. Labour Ministers of Indonesia and Philippines rushing to Hong Kong to mediate the struggle." These are the headings of an article we have received from Marxists in Hong Kong about the recent migrant workers struggle and their intervention in the movement.

Solidarity of the migrant workers of Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka demonstrated with PTUDC

Hong Kong Unions join the fray

Call for a party of labour wings support - notion to be sent to the labour movement of Hong Kong and Macao

Labour Ministers of Indonesia and Philippines rushing to Hong Kong to mediate the struggle

In a massive show of force over 3,000 migrant workers in demonstrations with supporters marched and rallied at all day festivals in Central district, Hong Kong. This rally total increased form the 2,000 of two weeks previous which was only a few hundred strong on the first rally prior to that.

The migrant workers of Hong Kong, who have developed an independent group of unions and achieved almost 100% membership have commenced militant action to prevent any further pay cuts. Many of these workers earn less than HK$2,000.00 per month for up to 113 hours per week! Their numbers total some 250,000! In a series of demonstrations the cause and demands of the movement have found an increasing echo with the demonstration called two weeks ago attended by some 2,000 marchers. The echo is being received by the Trades Unionists, the leaders for their own purposes to abate the movement and the rank and file for their solid determination despite suffering the worst conditions and pay of all workers in Hong Kong save the army of elderly who work in the recycling industries.

The bulk of the migrant workers are women employed in the domestic industry. After completing the registration, paying up to 6 months salary equivalent to the legal human traffickers they face many difficulties and dangers. Some 160,000 are from the Philippines, some 60,000 from Indonesia, most from the rural areas with their families relying on the remittance home which averages 50% of the monthly wage of the migrant worker.

Suffering the indignity of being forced to break with tradition many women's lives are destroyed, for Moslem women it can be a double blow. Many are raped or sexually and physically assaulted and even tortured. With the increasing desperation of many middle class families they are subject to physical and mental abuse, overwork, over responsibility, underpay from the poverty level figures existing and often just dumped onto the streets to face capture by organized crime or deportation like a criminal. This by the very families that once welcomed them into their households and families. Capital treats it's factories and livestock better than people.

In response to the growing unrest, the Labour Ministers of both the Philippines and Indonesia are being rushed to Hong Kong to mediate in the dispute. Round 1 - won on points. Already there are signs that there is backtracking on the part of the government not to cut the migrants' already paltry pay levels. They are fearful of this movement gaining an echo in the wider movement. Too late it already has. The significance of this demonstration was the unity between local and international workers with the 120,000 strong Hong Kong Congress of Trades Unions represented both on the demonstrations and at the rallies.

With more massive lay offs in the offing and the victory of the recent and spontaneous 'ISS' cleaners' strike the government needs to be worried. With talk of an economic meltdown in Japan in the coming week in the serious media the imposed Beijing leadership of our region has gratefully acknowledged the kind offer of the countries of the main migrant workers here.

No doubt - as long as the pressure maintains and the movement is developed - the Hong Kong government will capitulate. They will try to do so with 'face' but they are a little like 'Shylock' of the 'Merchant of Venice', they have tried to cut and have failed in a humiliating fashion. The so called weakest section of the working class has shown its power.

The demonstrations themselves were lively as were the rallies! Key note speeches being given by all sectors of the movement. Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign supporters received massive applause for the call for solidarity and in opposition to the war and for a workers' government. PTUDC supporters were approached after the speech to join with Asian Monitor (AMRC) - the Hong Kong trades union based intelligence unit and by the Coalition for Migrant Rights to develop the movement further.

Serious discussions have been agreed to be held between the supporters of the WIL and the groups AMRC, Asian Human Rights Commission, HKTUC, as to the call for development of an independent party of labour based on the trades unions and based on the new developing labour organizations. The conclusion being drawn by the leading sections of Hong Kong's workers' movement is the need for serious organization.

Recent events such as the ISS strike, the migrant workers' struggle - with their incredible bravery - and the resumption of strike action by the Hong Kong air carrier Cathay Pacific have reinvigorated the movement. With the proud history of Trotskyist, social, labour and political movements the main structured parties of the so-called left are disintegrating. Today it was announced that the core membership of the Democratic party (DP - Hong Kong's largest party had formed a separate group to campaign for their roots, "the middle class". This comes on the wake of the creation of the Social Democratic Forum which moved immediately to campaign against WTO which ended in arrest of all SDF members on their first outing! - all 12!. The SDF was an effort by April 5th to develop a split from the Democrat camp on activist lines. It failed, it never even raised the question of their platform, it has all but disintegrated. This right wing split heralds the end of the DP. The new split may receive an echo and continue but the movement of the working class has left these Dickensian characters of the old empire behind.

The question of the labour party here is has been received because there is a programme.

The main rally was an international show of solidarity with calls for class struggle, unity and solidarity. Even the Christians who sung and danced were received by an overwhelmingly Moslem audience. To hear the 'Internationale' sung by the demonstrators in the several languages of the rally was an experience.

In a mirror reflection of the crisis of our society whilst some four thousand migrant workers took to the streets and enjoyed a half day carnival of militant demonstration the leadership of the movement has decided to split into two factions, we enjoyed four marches and two rallies in one day! The faction dispute is based solely on the chauvinism of both leaderships with the bulk of Indonesian, Sri Lankan and Thai workers supporting AMR. The bulk of the Philippine workers the AMWU. There is a history of certain chauvenism given that the Indonesian workers were initially introduced to break the then near monopoly and the so called minimum wage of HK$3,760.00. Despite the machinations of the leaderships the two demonstrations did converge to resounding applause of all workers and looks of bewilderment on certain organizers.

The Marxists of Hong Kong have issued an immediate call for the resumption of unity of the existing leadership and for the movement to be developed on a united organization of all workers under the banner of a workers' party. The demonstration of internationalism - underscored by the speech of the PTUDC supporter - by these workers is the basis of the movement, not the chauvenism of the leadership. This movement will be victorious and a demonstration that militancy pays. This movement will not be left to die out in limbo but will become the foundation of the development of a workers' party. Such an organization based on socialist ideas would win massive support.