“不要问丧钟为谁而鸣”- 多伦多华人劳工运动杰出代表之一,宋轩麒

宋轩麒,是多伦多众多辛勤华人劳动者中的一位。他目前从事平面以及招牌设计,积极参与多伦多及约克地区劳工议会,并将其业余的大量时间致力为华人争取社会公义以及种族平等。在多伦多工作多年的他,感受到为华人争取劳工权益的重要性,他从一个非工会成员,变成极力为华人劳工争取权益的积极分子。下面,让我们来看看他是如何与华人劳工运动结缘的故事。

他在1997年之前从香港移民到多伦多,在这里上高中以及大学。当时的他,励志成为一位平面设计师。毕业后,他如愿以偿的加入了多伦多明报,从事设计相关的工作。从此,作为平面设计师的他在明报辛勤耕耘工作了9年。

说起自己是如何参与到劳工运动的,宋轩麒回忆说,这一切都是从工运开始。在2010年的时候,他开始投身于明报的工会组织运动中。当时,多伦多及约克区劳工议会邀请他出席当年的劳工日大游行。这个活动,让他们的工会组织活动得到了媒体的关注,增强了他们的团队士气。在这之后的日子里,他跟他的团队经历了73天罢工。劳工议会当时动员其他工会一起到前线声援他们。这些支持,让宋轩麒跟他的工友们能够持续这个劳工权益抗争。经过许多艰难的时光及挑战,他们最终成功争取到了能为他们大幅度提升薪酬以及福利的工会合约。自此,宋轩麒开始经常参与劳工议会及其旗下华工网络的活动,致力为华人在加拿大社会争取社会正义及劳工权益。

说起自己是如何参与到劳工运动的,宋轩麒回忆说,这一切都是从工运开始。在2010年的时候,他开始投身于明报的工会组织运动中。当时,多伦多及约克区劳工议会邀请他出席当年的劳工日大游行。这个活动,让他们的工会组织活动得到了媒体的关注,增强了他们的团队士气。在这之后的日子里,他跟他的团队经历了73天罢工。劳工议会当时动员其他工会一起到前线声援他们。这些支持,让宋轩麒跟他的工友们能够持续这个劳工权益抗争。经过许多艰难的时光及挑战,他们最终成功争取到了能为他们大幅度提升薪酬以及福利的工会合约。自此,宋轩麒开始经常参与劳工议会及其旗下华工网络的活动,致力为华人在加拿大社会争取社会正义及劳工权益。

这一切,都相当的来之不易。回想起当时在明报组织工会的初期,宋轩麒说到他的意志并非十分坚决。当时的他认为成败得失不是最重要的,首要是不影响自己的工作,同时确保不被公司所针对。倘若风险高于成本,他宁愿放弃。

但当时的有一件事情,改变了他的看法及价值观。记得在筹组工会委员会初期时,他与组里的一位成员有些过节。因为他一直以为这位成员为人比较滑头,经常对上司阿谀奉承。但在组织工会运动的期间,改变了他对这位成员的看法。原来宋轩麒发现他的本性并非如此。平常,这位成员看到不公平的事情时会发声为别人声援。无奈的是,在这位成员为别人出头后,他开始被公司管理层针对,接着就是对他一连串的无情打压。无可奈何之下,这位成员只能委曲求全。宋轩麒记得,这位成员曾语重心长的告诉他,组织工会就是他找回尊严的最佳反击。

当时,宋轩麒的儿子刚刚出生不久,开始懂得叫爸爸了。

在看到自己的同事因为维护正义及权益但遭无情打压,他想象如果自己遭遇他同事的经历,每天他要以不知羞耻的态度度日,以笑脸委曲求全,下班回家后面对牙牙学语的儿子,心中会感到十分内疚,愧对家人。当时,他脑海里突然闪过一句话: “不要问丧钟为谁而鸣,它就是为你而鸣。”宋轩麒觉得,如果今天他看到不公平之事时选择沉默不语,他日,别人也会在我遇到不公平之事时视若无睹。

那一刻,他的心态改变了。

他坚定认为,工会一定要筹组,正义一定要彰显。为人为己,追求公平正义。

对于许多华人来说,工会可能是个比较陌生的词。我们都受到劳动法的保护,为什么还需要工会呢?

许多人对工会的认识只是停留在罢工。有许多人认为罢工影响正常生活,尤其当公营服务罢工时,影响会更大。但是当你在工作场所受到不平等的待遇时,你才会清楚看到工会的存在是何等重要。

宋轩麒认为工会对保护我们每个人的劳工权益来说相当重要。

简单来说,劳工法例给予职场内工人基本保障,但其保障的范围十分有限。再者,如果你不在法律援助系统的保障内,在这种情况下,你是否有足够的财力,精力来寻求法律给予的公义呢?

宋轩麒以他的经历为例说到,他与另外九名同事因为组织工会被雇主解雇。公司给出的解雇的理由,说是因为不明的运营原因。但是法律条文明确规定雇主这样的行为是违法的!但是宋轩麒的雇主仍然执意违法。当时,他们可以做的就是控告雇主非法裁员,但考虑到自己进行法律诉讼所要花的时间,精神,费用,在理性的思考后,他们选择了放弃法律诉讼。但幸运的是,宋轩麒与他的战友们得到了工会的支援,工会为他们展开法律诉讼争取属于他们的公正与权益。最终,通过工会的帮助,宋轩麒与另外九名因组织工会被无故解雇的同事夺回失去了十个月的工作岗位及期间的薪资。这便是工会的力量!

宋轩麒说道,工会不单保护劳工在职场上的权益,而且连结工会成员争取社会公义,例如改革劳工法例,提高最低工资等运动,让未能组织工会的工人们想有更好的基本保障。今天,有好一些我们认识是理所当然的福利,例如医疗保健,就业标准,有薪假期,健康与安全法律,失业保险及有薪产假等,都是过去的工运前人一点一滴累积的心血。这都是工会对进步社会的贡献!

宋轩麒建议想要争取维护自己劳工权益的华人同胞们,可以试着参加华工网络的活动。他认为这是一个很好的开始。华工网络是由工会以及非工会成员组成,大家都致力为经济,社会,气候公义以及种族平等而奋斗,致力提高华人追求权益以及公正的意识。宋轩麒希望在不远的未来,能看到更多有志之士能加入到这个队伍,为华人的劳工权益做贡献!


Tell me a bit about yourself, who are you and what is your day job?


My name is Simon Sung. I immigrated from Hong Kong to Toronto before 1997, where I received my post-secondary education and later became a graphic designer. After graduation, I worked for Ming Pao in Toronto for nine years, engaged in design-related work, and served as the chairman of Ming Pao’s employee union. Now I focus on graphic design and signboard design and work part-time at Toronto and York Region Labor Council to promote social, economic, climate, and racial justice among the Chinese population in the GTA area.


How did you find yourself in this field?


It all started with the labor movement. In 2010, I participated in Ming Pao’s union organization movement. The Labour Council invited us to attend the Labour Day parade that year. This allowed us to get media attention and strengthened team morale. After a 73-day strike, the Labor Council mobilized other unions and supported us at the picket line, so that we could continue to fight, and eventually succeeded in winning a union contract that significantly increased workers’ salaries and benefits. Since then, I have often participated in the activities of the Labour Council and its affiliated Chinese Workers Network, striving for social justice.


Was there an incident in your life that sparked a desire for you to pursue justice for yourself and others? (e.g. strike, discrimination at work, unfair treatment, etc)


I remember that in the early days of organizing the Ming Pao labour union, I wasn’t very determined. I believed that success or failure was not that important. My priority was not to affect my work and not to be personally targeted. My thinking was if the risk is higher than the cost, I would rather give up.


Back then, I didn’t get along well with one of the members of the organizing committee, because I thought he was very cunning, and often flattered his boss. However, during the organizing movement, it allowed me to change my perception toward him. It turns out that he is a very different person than I thought he would be. He often speaks for others and fights for them when he sees injustice. Unfortunately, being vocal in the labour movement has made him a target by the company. He has ever since been suppressed by the company, and thus he could only compromise himself for his survival at the company. I still remember he told me that organizing a labour union was his only way to fight back the company and regain his dignity as a worker.


At that time, not long after my son was born, I started to imagine that if I had encountered my co-worker’s experience in the situation that I had to compromise my will and dignity, I would have felt very guilty in my heart and ashamed of myself. I started to reflect on myself and realized that if I chose to remain silent when I saw injustice today, others will turn a blind eye when I encounter injustice in the future.


At that moment, my mentality changed. The labour union must be organized and justice must be addressed. Be one’s own, and pursue justice.


How do you see unions helping in the fight for workplace justice or social justice?


To put it simply, although labour laws provide basic protection to workers in the workplace, the protection is very limited. Furthermore, if you are not covered by the legal aid system, it will be very difficult for most people to seek justice given by the law due to the lack of financial resources or energy.


Take my own experience as an example. Nine of my co-workers and I were laid off by our employer for organizing a labour union. Yet, our employer claimed that they have to lay off 10 employees due to unknown operating issues. The legal provisions clearly state that this kind of activity is illegal! But the employer still insists on breaking the law. In that situation, what we can do is to sue the employer for illegal layoffs. However, considering the time, energy, and expense that will be spent, we have to choose to give up. Fortunately, we have the support of the labour union to fight for justice for us in litigation, and thus we finally regained the ten months of lost jobs and wages during the period. Here is the power of the union!


Labour unions not only protect the rights and interests of workers in the workplace but also link union members to strive for social justice, such as reforming and advancing labour laws and raising the minimum wage, so that workers who fail to organize a union can enjoy better basic protection. Today, there are many things that we take for granted, such as medical care, employment standards, paid holidays, health and safety laws, unemployment insurance, and paid maternity leave, which are the accumulated painstaking efforts of the workers in the past. This is the contribution of labour unions to a progressive society!


What other relevant things should the Chinese-Canadian community know about Canadian unions?


In a traffic accident, you need car insurance to protect your benefit. If you fall ill, you will need health insurance to protect your health. When your life is in danger, you need life insurance. Your job accounts for a very important part of your life, you will need a labour union as your insurance to protect your right as a worker.


In your opinion, what prevented Chinese-Canadians to participate in the labour/union movement?


Most Chinese Canadians have a limited understanding of labour unions. Many believe that labour unions only can guide you on how to go on strikes while other people think strikes can have a negative influence on our daily lives. Especially when public service sectors go on strikes, it will affect society as a whole. However, when you receive unfair treatment, you will understand how important labour unions can play a role in your life.


Some are already under the protection of the labour union. However, some of them have never participated in union affairs and haven’t experienced how the union protects workers. Therefore, they are not happy about paying the union fees and gradually become discontent with the union. Earlier, I mentioned that the labour union initiated legal proceedings for us. The union fees we had paid made everything happened. At that time, although we had established a labour union, we had not yet signed a collective contract and had not paid any union fees. The entire litigation fee was paid by other existing members from the union who had paid the union fees in the past. They have made us who we are today, and who we are today will also make others in the future. A labour union is the embodiment of collective power!


What would you recommend for people who are interested in participating in union actions, where to start?


Joining the Chinese Workers Network is a very good start. It is made up of union members and non-union members who agree with economic, social, climate, and racial justice. It is committed to raising the Chinese populations’ awareness of pursuing justice through organizing various types of activities to attract more Chinese Canadians who are interested in building a progressive society.