Masseurs' low pay a mistake: union boss

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2007, 12:00am

Unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan hit back yesterday at a challenge that the Confederation of Trade Unions paid its workers lower wages than some of the lowest-paid jobs the union had exposed.

The Apple Daily newspaper reported that masseurs working in a government-subsidised massage parlour set up by the union were paid about HK$1,000 a month - only one-third of the monthly salary of a KMB-outsourced cleaner and McDonald's cleaners, which the union said was 'shameful'.

The news has embarrassed the city's only independent union - which has fought for the past decade to win a statutory minimum wage.

Union founder Mr Lee said it was just a misunderstanding.

'We guaranteed our workers HK$30 an hour, although we didn't clarify that with them because we thought their income would have exceeded this in a profit-sharing mode,' he said.

The nine part-time masseurs who work in the parlour - a social enterprise that opened on May 18 - were offered 70 per cent in a profit-sharing scheme for a 45 minute massage provided to each customer.

But business was so bad initially that some workers, who are paid every fortnight, earned less than HK$1,000 in the two weeks to the end of May.

Mr Lee said the union had paid each of the nine workers about HK$1,000 to make up the difference in their salaries.

But the enterprise's executive director Marilyn Tang Yin-lee said the situation was only temporary because business was picking up and it had been open only a short time.

'In the third week since opening, business has doubled that of the first week and our masseurs earned an average of HK$450 a week,' she said.

The union plans to recruit two more masseurs soon.

The enterprise, which received a subsidy of HK$850,000 from the Home Affairs Bureau, provides jobs and retraining for the middle-aged, jobless and underemployed.