Helix, the HKCTU’s former staff member, continues to uphold labour rights in Australia

1 min read

Helix, who worked for the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, had to leave Hong Kong because to the deteriorating political circumstances during the 2019 protests. Fortunately, his youth in Australia provided him with valuable experiences. In 2022, he went to Australia and rekindled his initial purpose by joining a workers’ rights protection agency to advocate for the rights of Hong Kong immigrants.

Helix had always planned to settle in Australia and had applied for a working holiday visa there in 2012. He returned to Australia in 2016 to complete his studies. During his stay there, he worked as a union officer, assisting Asian workers in meat plants with labour disputes. Helix noted that Australian unions, like those in the UK, have collective bargaining rights. Unions require members to join for a certain period before taking on individual cases. Additionally, Australian unions can deploy representatives into factories after giving employers 24 hours’ notice. Helix made use of it to educate Asian workers about their rights and encourage them to join the union.

Helix, who has worked in both Hong Kong and Australian unions, returned to Australia in 2022. He currently works with the Migrant Workers Centre, a local labour organisation specialising in handling new immigrants’ labour disputes. His role involves assisting these immigrants in recovering unpaid wages, paid leave, and notice pay. Helix highlights that many Hong Kong workers in the food and beverage industry, food delivery, construction, or agriculture face unscrupulous employers who refuse to pay minimum wages, frequently putting them into a precarious situation known as “false self-employment.” Under this arrangement, workers do not receive minimum wages and other labour benefits. If they experience wage arrears, they must pursue legal action through small claims or hire legal representatives themselves. Workplace injuries provide even less protection. Helix has formed a social media group specifically for food delivery drivers in precarious job situations, focusing on accident prevention measures.

In response to the pressing employment needs of newly immigrated Hong Kongers in Australia, Helix and other Hong Kongers in Australia founded OZstarter. This initiative connects employers and fellow workers within the Hong Kong community, providing employment matchmaking services. Helix remarked that, in comparison to his experience during his Australian working holiday in 2012, Hong Kongers have become more united due to the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2019 anti-extradition protests. He said, “I’ve received numerous labour dispute cases, and if a group of coworkers consists of Asians, especially Hong Kong people, they are the ones leading the fight for their rightful rights.” As a frontline labour activist, Helix is encouraged by the unity demonstrated by the Hong Kongers and urges them to organise and advocate for labour rights even while dispersed across different locations. He appealed to fellow Hong Kongers: “Stay united, and keep fighting!