A strike in the time of COVID-19 pandemic : The 2020 health workers’ dispute in Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

1 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-733
Journal / PublicationJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number5
Online published24 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


A short health workers’ strike held in early 2020 in Hong Kong at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the importance of democratic framing of social movement unionism. A trade union was established during a period of massive civil unrest against the local government in 2019 and then proceeded to organise a strike within 2 months of formation to pressure both their employer and the government to enhance citizen and health workers’ safety as the pandemic entered Hong Kong. The paper explains the organisation, progress and reaction to the strike by different stakeholders. The case exemplifies mobilisation through strong democratic trade unionism and provides an example of social movement framing that combined membership and societal interests. The strike represents the last instance of successful independent union mobilisation in Hong Kong as governance shifted from laisse-faire industrial relations that favoured the local capitalist elite to state authoritarianism focussed on obedience to the national political elite.

Research Area(s)

  • Covid-19, health employees, Hong Kong, social movement framing, Strike, union democracy