Forming a trade union
Definition of a trade union
Trade union means any combination the principal objects of which are under its rules
the regulating of relations between employees and employers, or between employees
and employees, or between employers and employers.
The right to organize a trade union
Application for Union Registration
- Article 27 of the Basic Law guarantees that Hong Kong residents have freedom
of association; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions.
- The Employment Ordinance (EO) provides that every employee shall as between
himself and his employer have the following rights:
- the right to associate with other persons for the purpose of forming or
applying for the registration of a trade union in accordance with the
provisions of the Trade Unions Ordinance (TUO);
- the right to be a member / an officer of a trade union registered under the
- where he is a member or an officer of any such trade union, the right, at
any appropriate time, to take part in the activities of the trade union.
Appropriate time means, in relation to an employee taking part in any
activities of a trade union, time which either is outside his working hours; or
is a time within his working hours at which, in accordance with
arrangements agreed with or consent given by or on behalf of his employer,
it is permissible for him to take part in those activities.
- The EO also provides that any employer, or any person acting on behalf of an
employer, shall not:
- prevent or deter an employee from exercising any of the above rights;
- dismiss, penalize or discriminate against an employee for exercising the
- make it a condition in an offer of employment that an employee must not
exercise the above rights.
A trade union must apply to the Registrar of Trade Unions for registration under the
TUO within 30 days of establishment.
- A trade union must have a distinctive name which is not identical with or nearly
resembling the name which any other trade union, whether existing or not, is or has
- A trade union must have a set of rules containing provisions for all the matters
specified in the Second Schedule to the TUO. The rules should not be
contradictory, imprecise, incomprehensible or inconsistent with any of the
provisions of the TUO.
- Application for the registration of a trade union shall be signed by not less than 7
voting members of the trade union.
- A trade union member must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, and engaged or
employed in the trade, industry or occupation with which the trade union is directly
Promoters of trade unions may approach the Registry of Trade Unions for advice on
registration matters, such as proposed names and draft rules, as a reference. No fees
will be charged for the registration of a trade union.
Rights of a trade union
A registered trade union has certain rights, including immunity from criminal
prosecution and civil suits under certain circumstances. Officers and members of
trade unions need to have an understanding of these provisions. For details, please
refer to the Trade Unions Ordinance. The leaflet “Rights, Obligations and Duties
of Trade Unions, Trade Union Members and Officers” by the Registry of Trade
Unions also contains reference information in this regard.