Ng Chi-Fai sacked for organising union by multinational’s Hong Kong division – international solidarity needed
Sally Tang Mei-ching, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong)
LSG Sky Chefs is the world’s largest provider of airline catering. On March 9, the company fired for no reason Ng Chi-Fai (nickname Fai) who is a chef and also the chairperson of the Hong Kong Chef’s Union. A protest was organised by labour groups on March 10 outside the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong against Fai’s wrongful dismissal.
We are urging protests and solidarity from trade unions internationally against a blatant union-busting attempt by the company, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, the German national carrier. On previous occasions LSG Sky Chefs in Hong Kong has shown its disapproval of Fai’s union activity by redeploying him to other duties.
On Sunday March 5, he attended a public forum as part of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive election (actually not a real election) and asked a question of one of the candidates, Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, about her position on standard working hours. There is no legally specified standard working week in Hong Kong and this has long been a campaign issue for the trade unions.
After this forum he was called to meet LSG Hong Kong’s General Manager Sam Yau, who told Fai “you are fired!” This despite the fact that Fai has always performed his duties well and never received any warning letter before. The company and Yau phoned Fai twice before the March 10 protest to warn him, “not to make this big”. Fai refused to call off the protest. It seems clear the dismissal of Fai was connected to his participation in the public election forum (of all candidates) which is his right – it was not during working hours.
Fai since May 2015 has been employed as the 2nd chef at LSG in Hong Kong. In April 2016, he assisted other chefs to chase arrears for overtime work from the company. Finally they succeeded, but in retaliation the company moved Fai from his former workplace in Tseung Kwan-O where he lives, to the Kwai Chung port area much further away. He was reassigned again to Central at the end of 2016. In 2015, he founded the Hong Kong Chef’s Union to unite workers to fight for their rights.
Fai says that every time after he participated in a public protest, the next day he was requested by the General Manager to do jobs that are not part of his contracted duties. “I am asked to take out the rubbish. Taking all the rubbish to the rubbish station. This is not part of my job as a chef.” He says he has also been warned by management many times to “not make so much trouble!”
LSG Sky Chefs is a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, with revenue of more than 3 billion euro yearly. In the United States, the company was in January 2017 fined 335,000 USD (HK$2.6 million) by city of Seattle’s Labor Department for violating of the city’s legal minimum wage of US$15 per hour.
Socialist Action (CWI) fully supports the struggle of the Chef’s Union and demands the reinstatement of Ng Chi-Fai and an end to victimisation of union members and activists by LSG Hong Kong. The right to organise in a union must be defended and also the freedom of political expression.
We urge fellow unionists, socialists and rights campaigners internationally to take up this case in the unions in your area, especially in airline and related branches, and to send protest letters to both the HongKong offices of LSG but also the parent company in Germany.
Send protests to LSG Sky Chefs in Hong Kong and Germany:
Hong Kong LSG: [email protected] (“Attention: Mr Sam Yau, General Manager LSG”)
LSG head office in Frankfurt, Germany (copy and paste into contact form):
LSG Sky Chefs, Germany, media contact: Josefine Corsten, phone: +49 6102 240-880
Model protest letter:
PROTEST AGAINST LSG SKY CHEFS HONG KONG
We/I deplore the union-busting actions of LSG Sky Chefs in Hong Kong, by sacking trade union activist Ng Chi-Fai on March 9 2017, without good cause. This is clearly a case of victimisation of a trade union activist. We call on LSG Sky Chefs to:
- Reinstate Ng Chi-Fai with immediate effect!
- Stop union-busting against the HK Chef’s Union. Membership of a trade union is a fundamental democratic right!
- End victimisation of employees for participating (outside work hours) in political debates or activities. No attack on freedom of expression!