Unionists and tycoons picked for low-pay body

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 February, 2009, 12:00am

A body set up to decide an appropriate level for a statutory minimum wage was officially established yesterday.

But a union leader questioned the composition of the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission. He said three independent members - university economists - were not labour-friendly and were unlikely to favour a call by workers for a minimum hourly rate of HK$33.

The three academics - Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Liu Pak-wai from Chinese University and Ng Sik-hung from City University - are part of the commission's 12-member team. The other nine are union leaders, employers and government officials - three from each sector.

Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah senior counsel and a veteran arbitrator who chairs the Transport Advisory Committee, will lead the commission.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the commission would base its decisions on the statistical findings of a thorough survey of 60,000 jobs to be launched later this year.

'An initial minimum wage rate would be adopted on the basis of an evidence-based approach and with a view to ensuring a sensible balance between forestalling excessively low wages and minimising the loss of low-paid jobs while sustaining Hong Kong's economic growth and competitiveness,' he said.

Confederation of Trade Unions leader Lee Cheuk-yan was worried that the three academics would consider a minimum hourly rate of HK$33 too high.

'They are supporters of freemarket principles, which means they would tend to minimise the effect of any kind of intervention upon the market - such as pushing down the level of a minimum wage.'

But Professor Ng said this was Mr Lee's subjective opinion.

Caroline Mak Sui-king, an employer representative of the commission who has said a minimum wage would be a disaster for small and medium-sized enterprises, said she put her personal opinions aside and came up with a rate through discussions with fellow members.

A business group comprising businesspeople, professionals and academics earlier proposed that the minimum wage rate should not be higher than HK$24 per hour.

Mr Cheung said the commission - which would remain provisional until it was given legal status - might decide on a rate by the end of next year.

The commission is likely to hold its first meeting next month, but it has not yet decided whether a oneperson, one-vote system will be adopted to pass important agendas.

The commission


Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, barrister


Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, Sun Hung Kai Properties vice-chairman

Michael Chan Yue-kwong, Cafe de Coral Holdings executive chairman

Caroline Mak Sui-king, chairwoman, Retail Management Association and Dairy Farm Group director

Lau Chin-shek, unionist and former legislator

Kwong Chi-kin, legal adviser to Federation of Trade Unions

Lee Kai-ming, former labour sector legislator

Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, dean, school of business and management, University of Science and Technology

Liu Pak-wai, economics professor, Chinese University

Ng Sik-hung, professor of social psychology, City University

Paul Tang Kwok-wai, permanent secretary for labour and welfare

Yvonne Choi Ying-pik, permanent secretary for commerce and economic development

Helen Chan, government economist