Vacancies down since pay drive launched

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2007, 12:00am

Drop in job postings for security guards and cleaners is seasonal: labour chief

The Labour Department has been notified of fewer cleaning and security vacancies since the government launched its voluntary 'wage protection movement' in October, the labour chief said yesterday.

The permanent secretary for economic development and labour, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, insisted the drop was a normal seasonal adjustment to the job market and not a response to the movement.

But unionist lawmakers and a business group said they believed the drop was due at least in part to the removal of jobs with wages below the average market rate.

Mr Cheung said the fall in vacancies for guards and cleaners was part of an overall 20 per cent reduction in jobs on offer. Detailed figures for the two occupations - specific targets of the wage-protection movement - will be released and explained at a meeting of the Legislative Council's manpower panel on Thursday, he said.

Companies joining the wage protection movement - seen as an alternative to legislation on a minimum wage - guarantee to pay their guards and cleaners the average market rate.

Mr Cheung said: 'It is normal that the job market is slack towards the end of the year, any worker would prefer to stay in their jobs until they receive their year-end bonus, wouldn't they?'

But the deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said there could be other reasons for the drop. Stanley Lau Chin-ho said: 'It is rational to think that fewer employers are now posting vacancies through the Labour Department because they are not willing to pay the average market rate.'

Mr Lau said the fact there were fewer job postings did not mean the job market was shrinking, since the Labour Department was only one of the channels available to employers for recruiting staff.

But legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said it did limit the choice for first-time job seekers.

'The Labour Department is one of the most reliable sources, especially for first-time job seekers who lack connections, and fewer postings in the job centres will mean fewer choices for them.'

He said that although the policy had guaranteed the wages of jobs posted by the department, it also showed that the movement was not as popular as the labour chief had hoped.

The department divulged earlier that the offered wages for 800 vacancies - a fifth of the openings in the two occupations - had been raised to meet the average market rate since November. But it has not said how many employers have refused to do so.

Mr Cheung said the movement, which has 700 participants so far, is slowly making headway.

'We are happy that the movement's participants are not confined to big conglomerates but also small and medium-sized enterprises, retail stores and trade firms.'