Action by SWAN Hong Kong supporters against property developer

From South China Morning Post – 7th June 2011

‘Job offer gets bulldozed by social workers

Developer’s ad for counsellor to meet residents forced out of homes has led to petition on Facebook and fears applicants could breach code of conduct

Ada Lee

Jun 07, 2011

A controversial property developer has advertised for a social worker to counsel residents forced to make way for redevelopment projects – provoking a backlash by hundreds of social workers.

Richfield Realty, which is often criticised for being heavy-handed in acquiring old buildings from reluctant residents, took out the job ad last week. Besides providing counselling to the people displaced by the developer, the job apparently entailed keeping records of meetings with residents and handing the reports to the company.

Many social workers said the job description “twisted the meaning of social work” and promised to launch a series of campaigns against the company.

Peter Cheung Kwok-che, a social welfare lawmaker and president of the Hong Kong Social Workers General Union, said the job appeared to violate their professional code of practice.

“Would Richfield tolerate the social workers it hired to help the residents it’s trying to displace against the company’s interest?” he said. “There are some fundamental conflicts between working as a social worker and working for Richfield.

“We will not tell our fellows not to apply for a certain job, but they have to be careful if they apply for this one.”

The union will protest at the developer’s headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui today.

Richfield has been active in Tai Kok Tsui, Quarry Bay, Mid-Levels and Ho Man Tin.

According to the code of practice for registered social workers, the primary responsibility of a social worker is to his clients.

The code also states that if a social worker finds his employer’s policies are jeopardising the interest of his clients, he should inform his managers.

Cheung said: “The code demonstrates to a large extent the value of social work. If a social worker is to work for Richfield, he’s walking a tightrope.”

A social worker found to have violated the code faces penalties ranging from a warning to being struck off by the Social Workers Registration Board.

By last night, more than 670 social workers had signed a petition on Facebook in protest at the Richfield job offer.

Lam Chi-leung, an organiser of the petition, said it would be inappropriate for social workers to work for the company.

“Social workers should stand on the side of the weak. They shouldn’t work for those who are damaging fairness in the city.”

Lam said the group would urge other social workers not to apply for the job by publishing an open letter in newspapers in the coming two weeks.

Meanwhile, there is another petition on Facebook calling for social workers to send “application letters” to the developer telling them why they would not work for it.

About 100 social workers had joined that group by last night.

Richfield Realty could not be reached for comment.

ada.lee@scmp.com’

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