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Hospital strike to proceed after talks break down

2020-02-02 HKT 18:50
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  • Hospital strike to proceed after talks break down
Thousands of public healthcare workers are set to go on strike starting on Monday, after declaring that talks with the Hospital Authority have broken down after the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, decided not to attend planned talks on Sunday.

“We consider that there is no practical meaning to our meeting without any government participation”, the chairman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, Winnie Yu, told reporters on Sunday.

“Therefore, we declare that talks have broken down, and industrial action has officially begun.”

The newly-established alliance has been urging the government to completely close down Hong Kong’s border with the mainland, warning that this is the only way to protect Hong Kong from the worsening outbreak of the new coronavirus on the mainland, which has infected at least 14,500 people and killed more than 300.

“If there is no full border closure, there won’t be enough manpower, protective equipment, or isolation rooms, to combat the outbreak”, Yu said.

More than 3,000 staff overwhelming voted to approve the strike action on Saturday.

Yu said only non-essential staff would join in the first day of the strike on Monday, treating it as a kind of ‘typhoon shift’ – where essential personnel would still be required to go to work.

Instead, those joining in the strike would go to one of seven designated hospitals to sign their names, and hand out white ribbons to encourage more of their colleagues to join in. Yu said she expects around 3,000 people to take part on the first day.

But, she said if the Hospital Authority are still unable to respond to their demands to close the border by 6pm on Monday, the strike would enter its second stage from Tuesday to Friday – when all members, including essential personnel, would join the strike. She said this could mean 6,000 more healthcare workers staying away from work.

She said the union has applied for police permission to hold a rally outside Hospital Authority headquarters, and added that more industrial could be taken if there’s still no positive response from the government by Friday.

“We reiterate… we hospital staff are being forced into taking this desperate move of taking industrial action by those in power”, Yu said. “We welcome the government at any time, to join in open talks with the Hospital Authority to give concrete responses to our demands, to resolve this current impasse.”

She added that the alliance is confident that the "formidable force" of 9,000 striking frontline workers will be enough to force the government into action.

Yu added that while some people have expressed concerns that they may face reprisals for taking part in the industrial action, the alliance will be a "large safety net" to guarantee their right to strike.

The government has closed down six of Hong Kong's 14 border crossings with the mainland and cut down the number of flights and bus services, but have kept most of the main crossings open, in the face of mounting pressure from experts, political parties, medical staff, and ordinary people to temporarily ban all mainland travellers to protect the territory from the outbreak.

Last updated: 2020-02-02 HKT 19:56