Hundreds rally for minimum wage law

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets yesterday to push for minimum wage legislation.

About 250 people, joined by about 10 lawmakers, marched from Southorn Playground to the Central Government Offices to maintain pressure on the government over the issue in the run-up to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address on October 15. It is expected Mr Tsang will discuss it, although it remains unclear whether he will announce legislation.

Tang Po-shan, a spokesman for the organiser, The People's Alliance for a Minimum Wage, said a law was widely backed by the public.

The two-year pilot wage protection movement has been an apparent failure with too few companies joining it. Under the movement, employers are asked to pledge to pay cleaners and guards no less than the median wage.

Several lawmakers joined the protest, including Confederation of Trade Unions legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, from the Neighbourhood and Workers' Service Centre, and Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government had heard different voices from society, and would discuss minimum wage legislation after a review on the effectiveness of the wage protection movement - which will be completed in two to three weeks.

A group of foreign maids, who are calling for statutory hourly pay of HK$30 with a 10- to 12-hour workday, joined the protest.

Dolores Balladares, chairwoman of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said the proposed wage law should include foreign domestic helpers. She said the maids deserved higher pay than the HK$3,580 month minimum, and a permanent suspension of the levy on employment contracts for foreign maids would allow room for a wage increase.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service found many part-time and casual employees in the catering, logistics, retail and services sectors were underpaid and lacked job security.

The poll of 199 respondents found about half earned less than HK$30 per hour and did not have a stable monthly income. It was conducted between May and August.

The poll also found 80 per cent were not employed under a written contract. More than 90 per cent said they did not have paid sick leave, about 75 per cent did not receive statutory holidays and nearly 80 per cent did not have annual leave.

Pollster Leung Hon-chu, of Baptist University, described such employment relationships as 'fragile'.

Council business director Chua Hoi-wai said the government should revise laws to protect part-time and casual employees.

Mr Cheung said a review on employment regulations for casual and part-time employees would be conducted next year.