PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am

Link should urge firms to pay living wage

Liberal-minded readers were relieved that common sense and corporate social responsibility prevailed regarding The Link Management ('Link retreats on plan to extend car park security guards' hours', July 7).

The backlash from many sectors of the community to The Link's proposal to trim costs on the security staff it employs by making a reduced number work a 72-hour instead of 48-hour week should now be cause for a review of the lax labour regulations that allow employers in our community to exploit their staff members to this degree.

Many companies took advantage during the severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis to cry wolf and reduce security staff and cleaners by introducing two 12-hour shifts in place of the traditional three shifts of eight hours.

When the good times returned and companies were once again making record profits they conveniently forgot to share these profits with the workers, many of whom still work 12-hour days, six days a week for Sars-era wages.

It is now clear there is an urgent need for a swift review to determine how many corporations engage in this exploitation and the acceleration of legislation on not only a minimum wage but also maximum working hours and the payment of overtime rates for any hours worked over and above.

The Link, having seen the light should now, through its presence on the manpower committee of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and other organisations, encourage other employers to pay staff a living wage for reasonable working hours. Workers with some spare cash in their pockets and the time to spend it will be a boon to our economy.

Companies like The Link proudly display awards like 'Caring Company' and 'brand with a conscience' on their websites. It is time they demonstrated that these awards are justified.

Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan

Skewed view of democracy

I was disappointed to read Elsie Tu's letter ('Pan-democrats just cannot see beyond universal suffrage', July 9), in which she makes simple comparisons between the weaknesses of some democracies and the strengths of some undemocratic places like Hong Kong.

I think that she has confused the concepts of democracy and good governance. Democracy does not guarantee good governments, even though most of the countries that enjoy good governance do practise democracy. To demean democracy simply because it cannot solve every problem, as Mrs Tu said (because she has waited in vain for the pan-democrats to 'tell the public how the present problems will be solved when each person has a vote') is to neglect or to ignore the concept of rule by the people, of the people and for the people. Accountability to the people is what democracy is about. Good governance cannot be achieved with democracy alone. It requires hard work and effort from each and every member of the community in striving for this goal of a fair and just society. Therefore, it does not make sense to single out democracy as being not good enough to solve every problem that can emerge from our complicated and complex society.

Mrs Tu clearly does not have a clear concept of democracy.

Stephen C. K. Chan, Lai Chi Kok

Levy a step in right direction

The new 50-cent plastic bag levy came into force on July 7. It is undoubtedly benefiting Hong Kong, because people will use fewer plastic bags. Because these bags take so long to break down in our landfills they are bad for the environment.

The law was therefore essential to get stores and shoppers to use fewer plastic bags.

However, in other countries such as Japan, and in Taiwan, a number of measures have been implemented to protect the environment but the sale of plastic bags has been largely unaffected.

I have noticed that some shops have tried, via a number of new measures, to mitigate the effect of the levy and keep customers. Some stores have a loan system and others supply paper bags. If the levy is to be effective, then it will depend on businesses supporting it and not trying to get round it.

It also has to be recognised that plastic bags make up only a small proportion of Hong Kong's waste.

However, it is important because it makes people more aware of the need to reduce waste and change the mindset of Hong Kong people. The government should also be trying to encourage a reduction in other forms of waste.

I look forward to the day when all shoppers bring their own bags.

R. Suen, Mong Kok

Smoking ban may save lives

James Griffiths, who laments the extension of the ban on smoking to all Hong Kong's bars, loses sight of two key points ('Smoking ban in bars will only cut much-needed spending', July 10).

One is that non-smokers like to go to bars too, and they can be, and very often are, disturbed - indeed poisoned - by the smoke emitted by others.

The challenge, now that smoking inside bars will no longer occur, is to get the smokers away from the open fronts of restaurants and bars, lest they continue to disturb those inside with their toxic exhalations.

The other key point is that smoking eventually makes seriously ill, or kills, nearly half of those who indulge in the unhealthy habit. By forcing smokers to at least desist while inside a bar, these enhanced rules may be saving the life of the smoker.

These vital points far outweigh the inconvenience to smokers of no longer being allowed to smoke inside bars.

Hong Kong has taken the right step here and it is a step already taken by many other jurisdictions around the world.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

No need for F1

Hosting Formula One in Hong Kong will require the kind of government impetus and resources that countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi can commit to - but on a sport that is ecologically unfriendly.

Like almost every sport, F1 racing has evolved, in this case almost beyond recognition from its early days in Europe.

F1 is staged at venues compliant to the dictats of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone so that the entertainment can be televised almost worldwide.

Hong Kong does not need F1; it already knows what benefits motor racing confers when Formula 3 visits Macau every November. And there is already an F1 presence in Shanghai. Who needs two China Grands Prix?

Anne Wong Holloway, Tai Tam

White elephant

It has been 11 years since my last visit here, which is much too long. But thanks to reading the South China Morning Post during the entire period, I know what has been going on in Hong Kong. As a local friend said, there have been many changes. The Kowloon reclamation is for the most part occupied though the planned cultural district has yet to materialise.

My next stop was PCCW's Cyberport. I found a sleepy residential district with many high-grade residential towers, with seemingly unoccupied offices below. A friend called it a white elephant. We PCCW shareholders received little if any benefit.

Samuel Pyeatte, Siloam Springs, Arkansas, US