15 Hong Kong L.J. 77 (1985)
Stike at the Mass Transit Railway Corporation: Its Implications

handle is hein.journals/honkon15 and id is 103 raw text is: Strike at the Mass Transit Railway
Corporation: Its Implications
Ng Sek-hong*
IN APRIL 1984, a trade dispute erupted for the second time
within a period of four months between the Mass Transit
Railway Corporation ('MTRC') and its train drivers' union, the
Mass Transit Railway Operating Department Staff Union.' The
conflict escalated swiftly into a full-scale strike, when the newly-
recognised union2 ceased negotiations with the company on the
latter's scheme to introduce flexible work rosters for its train
drivers and other operations staff. A ballot taken on April 9
showed overwhelming support for a strike from the union's 300-
strong membership. However, the strike collapsed after only
two days when the MTRC's management announced the summary
dismissal of the strikers. The strikers, with the exception of
thirteen  key   instigators, were    subsequently  offered  re-
engagement. However, they were not permitted to retain their
previous seniority of service but were placed on three month
probations like any new recruit.
The actions of the MTRC brought into focus the issues of
legal protection of strikers, the rights of a recognised union,
and the obligation of an employer to bargain with such a union
in good faith. These issues are considered below.
The strikers and job protection
The MTRC's management invoked an extreme form of
sanction against the strikers by dismissing them for breach of
their employment contracts. In moral terms, such action
contradicts the tacit 'rules of the game' in that 'workers and
managers seldom make use of all their power potential in a
strike situation.'3 When management uses its prerogative
summarily to dismiss strikers for the temporary withdrawal of
their labour, the question arises whether such concerted
cessation of work should be treated as sufficient failure of an
employee's obligation to justify the abrogation of the contract
MSocSc (HK), MSc (Lond); Lecturer in Management Studies, University of
Hong Kong.
'For an account of the dispute and its background, see Hong Kong Standard,
Apr 20, 1984, 4; Apr 21, 1984, 2.
2 The MTRC had entered into a formal agreement with the union in the previous
January to recognise it for the purpose of representing its members.
'E Batstone, I Boraston and S Frenkel, The Social Organisation of Strikes
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978) 39.

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